Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin will not resign her position pending the outcome of her criminal charges on public corruption accusations, her defense attorney told a Pittsburgh newspaper last week.
In comments to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, lawyer Daniel Brier said his client would not step down as she awaits trial on allegations that she used her then-Superior Court staff to work on her campaign for the high court.
“Under our constitution, prosecutors do not select the judiciary, voters do,” Brier told the paper. “Justice Orie Melvin is committed to fulfilling her public responsibility.”
In a statement, Lynn Marks, the executive director of the advocacy group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, expressed concerns about having Orie Melvin remain on the Supreme Court as her case unfolds even though she has only been accused of a crime at this point.
“We do think she’s innocent until proven guilty,” Marks said, “but what hangs in the balance is the tension between her presumption of innocence and the proper operation of the Supreme Court.”
A magisterial district judge from western Pennsylvania last week ordered Melvin to stand trial on seven criminal counts against her, a mix of felonies and misdemeanors.
The district judge had dismissed two of the misdemeanor counts during Orie Melvin’s preliminary hearing.
Orie Melvin remains suspended with pay from her high court duties, although a hearing before the state Court of Judicial Discipline has been scheduled for this month to address the pay issue.
This past spring, Orie Melvin’s sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, was convicted of similar white-collar crimes and subsequently sent to state prison for 2 ½ to 10 years.