Former Pa. Justice Joan Orie Melvin receives house arrest, probation during corruption sentencing

By Jon Campisi | May 8, 2013

Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who was convicted on

public corruption charges in February, was sentenced on Tuesday to house arrest followed by probation, according to court records and Pittsburgh media.

The disgraced jurist learned her fate during a sentencing hearing before Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Lester Nauhaus, who had presided over her trial.

In addition to the three years of house arrest and two years of probation, Nauhaus also ordered Orie Melvin to draft handwritten apologies on photos of herself, and send them out to every single judge across the state, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“I don’t believe that Joan Melvin is an evil person but I do believe that her arrogance is stunning,” Nauhaus reportedly said during sentencing, according to the western Pennsylvania newspaper.

Reached by phone, a staffer at the judge’s office said Nauhaus’s actual sentencing order would likely not be publicly available for a few days.

Orie Melvin was found guilty in late February of using her then-Superior Court staff to work on her campaigns for the high court in both 2003 and 2009.

Convicted alongside Orie Melvin was her sister, Janine Orie, who served as the justice’s aide at the time.

Another sister, Jane Orie, had previously been convicted on similar corruption charges and currently resides in a state prison.

Before she wore prison garb, Jane Orie served as a Republican Pennsylvania senator from the western part of the state.

An Allegheny County Common Pleas Court jury had found Orie Melvin guilty on charges including conspiracy, theft of services and misapplication of government funds.

She was initially suspended from the high court and resigned her post in March.

The criminal docket sheet also slows that Nauhaus ordered Orie Melvin to work in a soup kitchen three times a week, and that she is only allowed to leave her home to attend religious services.

As for the apologies, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Nauhaus ordered an official county photographer to take a picture of Orie Melvin, which would be made into mass copies, and on which the former justice would pen her apologies to the state’s judges.

Orie Melvin must pay for the photographs and the mass mailings out of her own pocket.

The Pennsylvania Record reached out to Orie Melvin’s defense attorney, Patrick A. Casey, of the firm Myers, Brier & Kelly, to ask his thoughts on the sentence handed down to his client by Nauhaus, but he responded in an emailed message by saying he would have no comment for the media at this time.

Janine Orie, the former justice’s sister, was reportedly sentenced to one year of house arrest followed by two years of probation for her crimes.

The criminal docket sheet in Orie Melvin’s case shows that an official oppression charge and criminal solicitation charge were dismissed prior to trial.

Court papers also show that Orie Melvin was ordered to pay a $55,000 fine and that she must comply with DNA registration because she is now a convicted felon.

Meanwhile, it will be up to Gov. Tom Corbett to nominate a replacement to fill Orie Melvin’s vacant seat on the now-six-member Supreme Court, although it is unclear on when that might occur.

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