Friday, May 10, 2013

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin Ordered To Send Out Apology Letters For Her Abuse of Office

Judge convicted of corruption is ordered to send a photo of herself with a signed apology to all 500 judges in Pennsylvania

 | May 10, 2013 | 0 Comments
Justice Joan Orie Melvin 224x300 Judge convicted of corruption is ordered to send a photo of herself with a signed apology to all 500 judges in Pennsylvania
Punishment: Former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin was ordered to wear handcuffs for her sentencing hearing on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, Penn. She was convicted in February of corruption
A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that a fellow jurist, convicted of corruption charges, must send a photo of herself signed with an apology to all of her former judicial colleagues.
Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin avoided prison time on Tuesday for her campaign corruption conviction but was ordered to send notes of contrition to judges because she abused her office.
At her sentencing hearing in Pittsburgh, Penn., Judge Lester Nauhaus chided Melvin for engaging in crimes of ‘arrogance’ and ordered her to immediately have her picture taken by a county photographer, so she can write apologies on them and send them to several hundred state judges.
Melvin, her sister and former aide Janine Orie each received house arrest for illegally using the judge’s state-funded staff as part of her two campaigns for a seat on the state’s highest court.
Although Nauhaus didn’t imprison the women as prosecutors hoped, he admonished Melvin for claiming to be a role model for her children.
‘What kind of role model are you? These are felonies, this isn’t a parking ticket, and your children’s mother is a convicted felon,’ Nauhaus told Melvin, 57, a married mother of six.
The sisters were convicted of theft of services and other crimes for using Melvin’s former court staff – and the staff of a third sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie – to work on Melvin’s political campaigns in 2003 and 2009. Melvin was a Superior Court judge at the time, and lost the first election before voters picked her for the state’s highest court.
Melvin, a devout Catholic, was sentenced to three years of house arrest during which she may leave only for church – unless she receives specific permission from the judge for other activities – followed by two years’ probation. She is also barred from referring to herself as a judge while under sentence.
Janine Orie, 58, was sentenced to one year of house arrest and two years of probation for helping coordinate the illegal campaigning.
One Melvin staffer said she was shunned by Janine Orie and Melvin after objecting to the campaign work and another, law clerk Lisa Sasinoski, claimed she was fired – although jurors were unable to reach a verdict on a count of official oppression relating to that claim.
‘She violated the law, she ruined the lives of an awful lot of people,’ Nauhaus said in explaining Melvin’s sentence.
Nauhaus also ordered the sisters to write letters of apology to any staff who were made to do the illegal work.
Melvin has surrendered her law license and resigned her court seat effective May 1, but Nauhaus still saw fit to formally remove her from office.
Nauhaus also fined Melvin $55,000.
Although Melvin will likely lose a state pension estimated at $140,000 annually, she was entitled to a refund of her payroll pension contributions.
Nauhaus said the fine – and still-to-be-determined court costs and restitution – are designed to ‘exhaust’ the pension money.
Deputy District Attorney Lawrence Claus had asked for a sentence similar to the 2 ½- to 10-year prison sentence Jane Orie is serving.
The 51-year-old ex-lawmaker was convicted of misusing her state-funded Senate staff on her own campaigns, and forging defense documents used at her initial mistrial, though she was acquitted of making her staff campaign for Melvin, too.
Melvin’s attorney, Patrick Casey, argued for probation noting that the aggregate value of the illegal campaign work Melvin received from state-paid staffers was about $34,000.
Nauhaus acknowledged the illegal work was a pittance compared to roughly $1 million Melvin reportedly spent on each of her Supreme Court campaigns, but said arrogance, not necessity, drove the abuses.
‘I don’t believe that Joan Melvin is an evil person, I’ve never believed that,’ Nauhaus told the courtroom. ‘But I do believe that her arrogance is stunning.’

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