Joan Orie Melvin
|Joan Orie Melvin|
|Current Court Information:|
|Pennsylvania Supreme Court|
|Past position:||Pennsylvania Superior Court|
|Undergraduate:||University of Notre Dame, 1978|
|Law School:||Duquense Law, 1981|
Joan Orie Melvin was a justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She was elected to the court on November 3, 2009 and took office on January 1, 2010. She was convicted of six counts of corruption on February 21, 2013 and resigned on May 1, 2013.
- For the full story, see: Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice found guilty on six counts of corruption
On May 18, 2012, Justice Orie Melvin was indicted by a grand jury for utilizing her staff at the Superior Court during campaigns for the Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009. In addition, Orie Melvin was accused of also being directly involved in coordinating the staff of her sister, state Senator Jane Orie, for the benefit of Orie Melvin's campaigns. All told, Orie Melvin was charged with nine criminal counts.  In late July 2012, Judge James J. Hanley, Jr. reduced the charges to seven out of nine counts.
Justice Orie Melvin insisted that she was innocent and would not resign from the Supreme Court. She also contended that the charges brought against her are politically motivated. 
Following the indictment, Orie Melvin was suspended with pay from the Supreme Court. However, in August of 2012, the Court of Judicial Discipline ruled for an unpaid suspension. The court intended to "protect and preserve the integrity of the Unified Judicial System and the administration of justice of the citizens of this Commonwealth" with the suspension. Separately, Orie Melvin sent a letter to Chief Justice Ronald Castille, recusing herself from all judicial matters until the situation was resolved. 
On February 13, 2013, Orie Melvin stood before a jury, saying, "I have decided to not take the stand and testify on my behalf." Closing arguments were heard on February 15, 2013. Janine Orie, who worked as an administrative assistant for Orie Melvin, did not testify either.
After four days of deliberations, on February 21, the jury reached a verdict. Orie Melvin was found guilty of the following charges:
- Felony theft of services (three counts)
- Conspiracy to commit theft of services
- Misdemeanor misapplication of government property
- Conspiracy to tamper with evidence
On May 7, 2013, Judge Lester G. Nauhaus, of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, sentenced Orie Melvin. He ordered her to be put on house arrest for three years, followed by two years of probation. She was given three days a week outside of the house to serve at a soup kitchen and she will also be permitted to attend church. The judge also ordered her to send a note of apology, written on a photograph of herself in handcuffs, to every judge in the state (over 500). Apology letters to her staff and family members were also required. In addition, she will have to pay $55,000 in fines and court costs.
In October of 2013, Orie Melvin attempted to get Judge Nauhaus to change his sentence, claiming that being forced to write letters of apology violates her right against self-incrimination. In response, Nauhaus attempted to schedule a probation violation hearing, but was blocked by an emergency stay from the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
On November 6, 2013, the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a stay on the portion of Orie Melvin's sentence that ordered the written apologies. The court agreed with the defense's request, which claimed that the apologies would violate Orie Melvin's right against self-incrimination. Since her conviction is on direct appeal, there is a chance that there will be a retrial. "While the requirement that she write apology letters does not involve potentially incriminating testimony in a courtroom, it nevertheless creates evidence that could possibly be used against her in a later criminal proceeding", said Judge Christine Donohue.
Soon after part of Orie Melvin's sentence was rescinded, Judge Lester G. Nauhaus ordered her entire sentence to be suspended. "She's not serving my sentence! And the problem I have with that is she's banking credit for time served and I will not allow it," said Nauhaus, who does not want Orie Melvin to collect credit for time spent in house arrest while part the part of the sentence concerning apology letters is under appeal.
Melvin is a self-described strict constructionist. In an article before the 2009 election, she stated, "I believe in judicial restraint. The job of a judge is interpreting the law — not creating it. And never legislating from the bench. That’s why we have three separate, co-equal branches of government. Judges are not supposed to be legislators."
After graduating from law school, Melvin went into private practice. In 1985, she was appointed a Magistrate Judge on the Pittsburgh Municipal Court. Two years later, she became Chief Magistrate Judge on the court. In 1990, Melvin was appointed to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. In 1997, she was elected to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, where she served until her election to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2009. 
Awards and Associations
- 2005 Women in Government Award, Pennsylvania Business & Professional Women
- 2005 Liberty Bell Award, Berks County Bar Association
- 2004 Anne B. Anstine Excellence in Public Service Award
- A Tribute to Women Leadership Award in Government/Public & Civic Service, YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh
- Woman of the Year, Duquesne University School of Law, Women's Law Association
- Woman of Spirit Award, Carlow College 
- Member, American Judicature Society
- Member, Federal Circuit Bar Association
- Past President, Allegheny County Prison Board
- Board Member, Soldiers & Sailors Military Museum and Memorial
- Board Member, UPMC Passavant
- Board Member, Vincentian Home
- Advisory Board, Allegheny County Mental Health/Mental Retardation
- Stop Violence Task Force, United Way Community Problem Solving Troubled Youth Committee 
- See full fundraising report here.
Allegations of misdeeds in campaign
In March 2012, Justice Melvin's sister, Pennsylvania State Senator Jane Orie was convicted of 14 counts of theft of services, conflict of interest and forgery for forcing state employees to provide campaign work for herself and Justice Melvin. Still, Justice Melvin has not been charged with a crime, though several have called on her to step down while the allegations are pending against her sisters. 
While Senator Orie awaits sentencing, the prosecution is re-configuring its case against Janine Orie, who is accused of similar charges and served as an aide to Justice Melvin. 
April 2010-March 2011
In April 2010, Melvin's sisters, Jane Orie and Janine Orie were accused by an Allegheny County grand jury of using public offices and staff to aid Melvin's 2009 judicial campaign. Jane Orie resigned from her position as Republican whip in the state Senate, although she said that the accusations are politically motivated. Likewise, Janine Orie, an aide to Justice Melvin, took leave from her position. 
Though Melvin was not charged with any crime, Janine Orie's attorney, James DePaquale, said that Melvin's conduct will be investigated by an Allegheny County grand jury. In response, Melvin's attorney said, "I am not aware of any grand jury in session." 
This trial ended in March 2011, after the judge declared a mistrial. 
Melvin has been outspoken about her disapproval of the Cost of Living Allowance given to state judges. In 2006, she sued the administrative office of the Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System over the fact that her salary went from $145,000 to $162,000 under a July 2005 pay increase for judges, top state officials and lawmakers that lawmakers in Pennsylvania repealed in November of 2005. Because she does not support the pay raise, Melvin said, "We're just going to keep sending the paychecks back until they do the right thing. Our position is, at this point, that it's not our money."
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan ideology of State Supreme Court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 are more liberal. Melvin received a Campaign finance score (CFscore) of 0.36, indicating a conservative ideological leaning. This is more conservative than the average CF score of -0.02 that justices received in Pennsylvania. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.
- News: Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice found guilty on six counts of corruption, February 22, 2013
- News: Justice Orie Melvin now suspended without pay, September 6, 2012
- News: Update on Justice Joan Orie Melvin's trial, July 11, 2012
- Pennsylvania Record, "Prosecution seeks jail time for Justice Orie Melvin; defense wants probation", April 17, 2013
- Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System, Honorable Joan Orie Melvin
- Project Vote Smart, Justice Joan Orie Melvin (PA)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Jury finds Orie Melvin guilty on all but one count", February 21, 2013
- ↑ Trib Live, "Suspended state Justice Joan Orie Melvin to resign", March 25, 2013
- ↑ Law.com, Allegheny County Investigating Grand Jury release
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 The Legal Intelligencer, "Justices Suspend Orie Melvin in Wake of Charges," May 21, 2012
- ↑ Pittsburgh Tribune, "Orie Melvin headed to trial on seven of nine charges," July 31, 2012
- ↑ Philly.com, "Judge rejects call to resign," May 20, 2012
- ↑ WTAE.com, "Pa. Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin guilty on all but 1 count", February 21, 2013
- ↑ post-gazette.com, "Orie Melvin declines to testify, defense rests", February 14, 2013
- ↑ The Associated Press, "Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin says charges against are 'politically motivated'," May 18, 2012
- ↑ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Orie Melvin, sister guilty of corruption, put on house arrest", May 7, 2013
- ↑ CBS Pittsburgh, "Orie Melvin Sentenced To 3 Years House Arrest", May 7, 2013
- ↑ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "DA suggests Orie Melvin get jail in lieu of apology", October 8, 2013
- ↑ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Pennsylvania Superior Court stays letter-writing part of Joan Orie Melvin's sentence", November 6, 2013
- ↑ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Judge suspends Joan Orie Melvin's corruption sentence", November 15, 2013
- ↑ The Bulletin, "Joan Orie Melvin: A Reformer's Bid for The Supreme Court", May 5, 2009
- ↑ Project Vote Smart, Justice Joan Orie Melvin (PA)
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 17.2 Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System, Honorable Joan Orie Melvin
- ↑ Pennsylvania Department of State, 2009 Municipal Election Results
- ↑ ThePittsburghChannel "Wexford's Joan Orie Melvin Beats Panella In Heated Pa. Supreme Court Race", November 3, 2009
- ↑ Lehigh Valley Live "Palmer Twp.'s Panella falls in high court race", November 4, 2009
- ↑ Pennsylvania Department of State, 2009 Municipal Primary
- ↑ PennLive.com, "Sen. Jane Orie convicted on 14 counts of theft of services, conflict of interest, forgery," March 26, 2012
- ↑ PennLive.com, "Calls grow for Supreme Court Justice Melvin to resign," January 18, 2012
- ↑ PennLive.com, "Sen. Jane Orie's theft conviction could mean bad news for her judge sister," March 27, 2012
- ↑ PennLive.com, "Pennsylvania Senator Jane Orie charged with theft of service, resigns from leadership post", April 7, 2010
- ↑ Gavel Grab, "Sisters of PA Justice Face Charges over Campaign", April 8, 2010
- ↑ Post-Gazette, "Justice's conduct being probed", July 1, 2010
- ↑ Gavel Grab, "PA Justice to be Grand Jury Focus?", July 7, 2010
- ↑ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Justice Joan Orie Melvin staying on state Supreme Court amid probe," January 11, 2012
- ↑ "Pittsburgh Post Tribune, Judge Joan Orie Melvin Sues over Pay Raise, December 2, 2006
- ↑ Stanford University "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
|Former||Ralph Cappy • Cynthia Baldwin • Jane Greenspan • William Strong • Joan Orie Melvin • Charles Alvin Jones •|