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WATCHBLOG: Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin convicted

By   /   February 21, 2013  /   8 Comments

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – The Orie family might soon have a whole wing of a state penitentiary named after them, but not in the flattering way, if there is such a thing.

JUSTICE: Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin was on the other side of the law Thursday, as she was convicted on six counts of using public resources for campaigning.

Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin was convicted in Pittsburgh on Thursday on six of seven corruption charges stemming from her use of taxpayer resources to help her win election to the state’s highest court in 2009, according to Pittsburgh media reports and the Associated Press.  Her younger sister, Janine Orie, was also convicted Thursday.

The sisters were charged with misapplication of government funds, theft of services and conspiracy, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Former State Sen. Jane Orie, R-Allegheny, was convicted in March 2011 on 14 or 24 counts stemming from the same investigation into Orie Melvin’s 2009 election.  She is serving at least 30 months in prison.

Phyllis Beck, a retired state judge and board member with Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a judicial reform group that advocates for ending judicial elections in Pennsylvania, said Orie Melvin’s conviction was something that could “only happen in a system where we elect judges.”

“When a Supreme Court justice is convicted of misusing court resources for her judicial campaigns, something is fundamental wrong with the system,” Beck said.

Orie Melvin’s conviction is the first time a sitting member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has been convicted of a crime since 1994 when Justice Rolf Larsen was found guilty on charges of conspiracy to obtain prescription drugs.

Larsen refused to resign from the court and had to be impeached by the General Assembly.

Orie Melvin voluntary placed herself on leave from the court in May when she became the focus of a grand jury investigation.  She was later suspended by the other members of the Supreme Court.  It is unclear whether she will voluntarily remover herself from the court.

Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at [email protected]