Former Supreme Court Justice won't serve sentence during appeal

By Jim Boyle | Oct 7, 2014

Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin's attempt to overturn one

aspect of her sentence may have backfired Tuesday after the court she once presided over ruled unanimously that her entire sentence would be stayed during her appeal.

Melvin and her attorneys brought her appeal to the state Supreme Court hoping to reverse the order requiring her to write letters of apology to every county judge in the commonwealth and her former staff members. The Supreme Court ruled that an appeal of one section of the sentence constituted an appeal of the entire sentence and refused to count the months before the final decision against Melvin's three years of house arrest.

"A challenge to one of several interdependent sentences is, in effect, a challenge to the entire sentencing plan," the court said in its opinion.

Melvin was convicted in February 2013 of public corruption charges relating to the use of her government staff members to help her 2003 and 2009 election campaigns for the state Supreme Court. Allegheny Court of Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus sentenced Melvin to three years house arrest and two years probation, plus the payment of $128,000 in fines and court costs.

The Superior Court recently ruled that the sentence of writing apology notes on staged photographs of Martin in handcuffs was one step too far, but that sending handwritten letters met the acceptable guidelines. Martin's attorneys argue that the letters deny their client of her Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate herself while she continues to maintain her innocence during the appeals process.

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