The Pennsylvania Superior Court is poised next month to hear arguments
in the appeal of former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who was convicted last year of using her judicial staff to work on campaign matters.
A three-judge panel of the appellate body will hear the appeal during a session in Lawrence County in western Pennsylvania, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Orie Melvin, who was convicted of using staffers to work on her bid for a Supreme Court seat in 2003 and 2009 respectively, argues that an out-of county Common Pleas Court judge should have presided over her trial because she previously sat on the bench in Allegheny County, a move her lawyers contend would have avoided the appearance of a conflict of interest.
A witness who testified at her trial was also a former law clerk and wife of a sitting Allegheny County judge, according to the Post-Gazette.
Prosecutors, the paper noted, have argued that the appeals arguments are without merit since Orie Melvin hadn’t been a judge in Allegheny County since 1997 and the key witness, identified as Lisa Sasinoski, was not the primary accuser in the case.
Melvin, who was convicted in February 2013, received a sentence of house arrest followed by probation last spring.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Lester Nauhaus, who presided over the trial, ended up suspending Orie Melvin’s sentence, however, because the former justice was not carrying out a portion of the punishment; Nauhaus had also ordered Orie Melvin to pen apology letters on photos of herself in handcuffs and send them to judges across the commonwealth.
The controversial letter-writing part of the sentence was subsequently stayed by Superior Court judges.
Nauhaus suspended the entirety of the sentence after fuming that Orie Melvin was not carrying out the totality of the sentence.
Nauhaus apparently didn’t want Orie Melvin collecting credit for time served while her full appeal played out.