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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Orders Ouster of Justice Melvin After Criminal Charges Are Filed

Posted May 18, 2012 11:19 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has relieved Justice Joan Orie Melvin of all judicial and administrative responsibilities, ordered her records secured and directed the court administrator to “ensure that the premises are vacated.”

The action, announced in a press advisory, follows news today that Melvin has been charged with nine counts, including four felonies, based on accusations she used state-paid staff for campaign work, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. An earlier story in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette had news of the impending charges.

Before the court action, Melvin had announced she was voluntarily recusing herself from judicial duties, but she was not resigning from the court.

The grand jury presentment alleges Melvin "actively condoned and even promoted" campaign activities by state workers when she was a superior court judge running for the state supreme court in 2003 and 2009, the Associated Press reports. She was elected to the high court the second time. According to the Tribune-Review, Melvin was charged with three counts of theft of services, two counts of conspiracy, one count of solicitation to tamper with or fabricate evidence, two counts of official oppression and one count of misapplication of entrusted property.

Melvin's lawyer, William Arbuckle II, wrote in a letter to the court's chief justice that Melvin "denies any criminal wrongdoing and will vigorously defend these politically motivated criminal charges."

Melvin’s sister, Pennsylvania state senator Jane Orie, was convicted in March for using legislative staff in 2001 to perform campaign work. She was acquitted of charges, however, alleging she directed staff to do campaign work for Melvin, the Tribune-Review says. Another sister, former Melvin aide Janine Orie, is awaiting trial based on accusations she directed her sisters' staffers to do political work.

The presentment says it appears Melvin was aided by her sisters Janine and Jane.

According to one of the court's orders (PDF), "Melvin is hereby relieved of any and all judicial and administrative responsibilities as a justice and is not to take any further administrative or judicial action whatsoever in any case or proceeding now or hereinafter pending in this court until further order of this court."

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Pa. Supreme Court Justice Consulted ‘Angel Lady’ Psychic, Search Warrant Says"

ABAJournal.com: "Pa. Justice’s Assistant, Her Sister, Is Suspended in Campaign Probe"

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