A magisterial district judge has dismissed two of the nine criminal counts against
suspended Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin following a July 30 preliminary hearing, court records show.
The dismissed charges, one count of official oppression and another of criminal solicitation-tampering with/fabricating evidence, are both misdemeanors.
Orie Melvin must still stand trial on the other seven counts, a mix of misdemeanors and felonies.
They include various diversion of services and conspiracy counts.
The counts were dismissed by Magisterial District Judge James J. Hanley, Jr., according to a report in the Legal Intelligencer.
Orie Melvin, who had been released on her own recognizance pending trial, remains suspended with pay from her high court duties.
A separate hearing on her pay situation will be held next month before the state’s Court of Judicial Discipline.
While Orie Melvin continues to receive her paycheck, some contend she should be suspended without compensation pending her criminal trial.
Melvin is accused of using her then-Superior Court judicial staff for work on her campaign for the Supreme Court, to which she was eventually elected.
Dan Brier, a defense attorney for Orie Melvin, told the Legal Intelligencer following Tuesday’s preliminary hearing that he was pleased with the district judge’s decision to drop two of the criminal charges against his client.
“This was our first opportunity to put these charges up to judicial scrutiny and a test, and we will have additional opportunities to challenge the remaining counts, which we believe will not withstand the strict application of the law to these facts,” Brier was quoted as saying.
Brier is representing Orie Melvin alongside attorney Patrick Aloysius Casey, of the Scranton, Pa. firm Myers Brier & Kelly LLP.
Orie Melvin was held for trial on the following charges: three counts of diversion of services, which are third-degree felonies; a third-degree felony count of conspiracy-diversion of services; a second-degree misdemeanor official oppression count; a second-degree misdemeanor count of conspiracy-tampering with/fabricating physical evidence; and a second-degree misdemeanor count of misapply entrusted/government/financial institution property.
The case will now be transferred to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas where it will be overseen by trial court Judge Jeffrey A. Manning.
The charges against Orie Melvin were leveled by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.
She was officially charged this past spring.