Pa. legislators call for impeachment of convicted Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin

By Jon Campisi | Mar 18, 2013

Two Pennsylvania lawmakers have announced they will be unveiling a resolution that

Two Pennsylvania lawmakers have announced they will be unveiling a resolution that

would begin the impeachment process against convicted state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

State Rep. Glen Grell, a Republican from Cumberland County, and Philadelphia Democratic Rep. John Sabatina jointly stated that the resolution would authorize a bipartisan impeachment of the sitting justice, who remains suspended without pay following her public corruption conviction in late February.

“We take no pleasure in considering the impeachment of a Supreme Court justice,” Grell said in a statement released by his office. “The entire situation is unfortunate for everyone involved: Justice Orie Melvin, her family and the citizens of the Commonwealth.

“But,” Grell continued, “our constitutional duty to uphold the integrity of our courts and to preserve the public’s confidence in our system of justice remains.”

In his own statement, Sabatina, a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney, said that, “it is important that due process be allowed to work regarding the justice’s right to appeal her conviction; however, the House of Representatives has a duty of oversight regarding the conduct of the Supreme Court.”

In an earlier statement, which was released days after the justice’s conviction on charges that she used judicial staff to work on campaign issues, Sabatina said that Orie Melvin’s failure to step down from her post would bring “dishonor to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

“It is in the commonwealth’s best interest to act swiftly and with dignity for the position,” Sabatina said at the time.

Sabatina said Orie Melvin’s suspension has left a void on the high court that needs to be filled as soon as possible, noting “important cases are pending,” and stressing that legislators “must take action to maintain the integrity and functionality of the state’s highest court.”

Under Pennsylvania’s constitution, the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment.

If the representatives move to impeach Orie Melvin, the state Senate would then have to conduct a trial to determine whether the justice would be removed from office.

Orie Melvin also has the option of stepping down voluntarily, but that has not yet happened.

Grell, the other representative pushing for Orie Melvin’s impeachment, said in his statement that Pennsylvania has been without a full Supreme Court for “long enough,” and that “the process must move forward so that trust can be re-established in our system.

“Our resolution does not circumvent the judicial process already under way because we believe Justice Orie Melvin is entitled to full due process,” Grell said. “Instead, it puts a framework into place in case those proceedings break down or are delayed. It would permit the legislature to impeach Justice Orie Melvin if the evidence and circumstances warrant it.”

Orie Melvin was found guilty on Feb. 21 by an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court jury on several felony counts, including theft of services, conspiracy and the misappropriation of state property.

She had been charged with using her then-Superior Court staff to work on her campaign for a seat on the high court.

Orie Melvin was suspended by the state Court of Judicial Discipline following her conviction.

The CJD also has the ability to remove Orie Melvin from office if it determines that the justice’s actions violated the rules of professional conduct or the commonwealth’s constitution.

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