Board pro­poses sus­pen­sion for Parks Miller

Centre Daily Times - - Front Page - BY BRET PALLOTTO bpal­[email protected]­tredaily.com

For­mer Dis­trict At­tor­ney Stacy Parks Miller opened her own law firm re­cently, but now she might have to re­con­sider those plans.

The Dis­ci­plinary Board of the Supreme Court of Penn­syl­va­nia on Thurs­day rec­om­mended her law li­cense be sus­pended one year and one day.

If the sus­pen­sion were fi­nal­ized, she would need to se­cure ap­proval from the Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court for re­in­state­ment.

“(Parks Miller) be­trayed the faith and trust of the pub­lic by en­gag­ing in mis­con­duct in her of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity, in­clud­ing dis­hon­est acts, and this fac­tor weighs heav­ily in the as­sess­ment of dis­ci­pline,” Dion Ras­sias wrote on be­half of the board in a 45-page re­quest for Supreme Court ac­tion signed Thurs­day.

She was ac­cused of en­gag­ing in ex parte com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Cen­tre County judges and the cre­ation, dis­sem­i­na­tion and use of a fake Face­book page to “snoop” on sus­pected bath salt deal­ers.

A hear­ing com­mit­tee in Au­gust rec­om­mended she be sus­pended for three months. The com­mit­tee found the ex parte text mes­sages to be vi­o­la­tions, but said the “con­cern­ing” Face­book page was not.

The lat­est re­port dis­agreed with the hear­ing com­mit­tee’s as­sess­ment and found both al­le­ga­tions to be vi­o­la­tions.

“The Face­book page cre­ated by (Parks Miller) and dis­sem­i­nated to her staff was fake and con­sti­tuted fraud­u­lent and de­cep­tive con­duct,” Ras­sias said. “Re­gard­less of (Parks Miller’s) in­tent to curb crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity in her county, she was not per­mit­ted to en­gage in dis­hon­est con­duct. (Parks

Miller’s) tac­tics crossed the bound­aries of pro­fes­sional ethics.”

When the hear­ing com­mit­tee an­nounced its rec­om­men­da­tion, Parks Miller’s at­tor­ney James Kutz ar­gued that any sus­pen­sion should be made retroac­tive be­cause Parks Miller put her­self on a self-im­posed sus­pen­sion be­gin­ning Jan. 1.

The board dis­agreed with Kutz’s re­quest be­cause a retroac­tive sus­pen­sion would be un­prece­dented.

“The retroac­tiv­ity com­po­nent of a dis­ci­plinary or­der rec­og­nizes that the re­spon­dent has been with­out a li­cense to prac­tice for a pre­vi­ous time frame,” Ras­sias said. “In a sit­u­a­tion where an at­tor­ney main­tains an ac­tive li­cense to prac­tice, such as the in­stant mat­ter, there is no prece­dent to make a sus­pen­sion retroac­tive.”

The board then said Parks Miller failed to bal­ance the in­ter­est of al­leged vic­tims, the ac­cused and the gen­eral pub­lic. It also crit­i­cized her for fail­ing to “grasp the larger con­se­quences of her ac­tions.”

“When the trust be­tween a pub­lic ser­vant and the pub­lic is bro­ken, there is no doubt that the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of the le­gal pro­fes­sion is dam­aged,” Ras­sias said. “In­ter­twined with the is­sue of re­morse is (Parks Miller’s) com­plete fail­ure to ap­pre­ci­ate and ac­knowl­edge the dam­age she has done to the rep­u­ta­tion of the bar.”

In an email Fri­day, Parks Miller lamented that the al­le­ga­tions against her were deemed ad­mit­ted af­ter she missed the dead­line to file her re­sponse. She said the lat­est rec­om­men­da­tion re­lies on par­tial text mes­sages that were only 32 char­ac­ters long from years ear­lier.

“While be­ing un­able to de­fend against it, I also could not, un­der oath, agree to their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the mat­ter or pre­tend to re­mem­ber it when I sim­ply did not,” Parks Miller said. “I was un­der oath and told the com­plete truth. Re­fus­ing to lie dur­ing this por­tion of the case should not be a rea­son to ag­gra­vate my sit­u­a­tion. I am re­gret­ful about any mis­takes I made.”

She also said she re­mains “ex­tremely mind­ful of the af­fect the in­ci­dents had on the court sys­tem and the bar” and wants to be held re­spon­si­ble for what she “ac­tu­ally did.”

Two mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors were con­sid­ered by the board. Parks Miller had no pre­vi­ous dis­ci­plinary his­tory dat­ing back to 1994 and five char­ac­ter wit­nesses who tes­ti­fied on her be­half in April.

“All of th­ese ac­tions sub­jected the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice and Cen­tre County court to scru­tiny and sus­pi­cion by the pub­lic,” Ras­sias said. “(Parks Miller) failed to ac­knowl­edge the se­ri­ous­ness of her con­duct and failed to ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

The board also re­quested the ex­penses in­curred through­out the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tion of the case be paid by Parks Miller.

“I am most dis­ap­pointed that the Dis­ci­plinary Board re­jected the rec­om­mended sanc­tion of the hear­ing com­mit­tee, which sat and heard the ev­i­dence and ob­served first­hand the de­meanor of the wit­nesses,” Kutz said. “Al­though the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion maker will be the Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court.”

Parks Miller said she and Kutz are go­ing to ask the Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court to ac­cept the hear­ing com­mit­tee’s three-month sus­pen­sion.

As for her law firm, Parks Miller said her clients will be taken care of no mat­ter how long she is sus­pended.

“I al­ready have a back up plan and ex­cel­lent lawyers in place for that,” Parks Miller said.

Stacy Parks Miller

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