Sentencing set for Pa. high court justice, sister

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PITTSBURGH – Suspended state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin and her sister face a May 7 sentencing for their conviction last week on campaign corruption charges, a judge decided Thursday.


Melvin, 56, remains suspended without pay from her spot on Pennsylvania’s seven-member high court, a court spokesman said. She also may face various efforts to remove her from office.


Melvin’s lawyer, Patrick Casey, did not immediately respond to a telephone message left Thursday at his Scranton office.


Melvin, who was elected to the court in 2009 as a Republican, was convicted by an Allegheny County jury of theft of services and other crimes for allegedly using her former Superior Court staff and the taxpayer-paid staff of her sister, former Republican state Sen. Jane Orie, to work on Melvin’s 2003 and 2009 campaigns for the Supreme Court. The jury also convicted Melvin’s aide and sister, 58-year-old Janine Orie.


Melvin was convicted of six of seven charges against her. Those include four third-degree felonies, each of which carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison.


The sisters were expected to appeal the conviction, but court rules prevent that from happening until after they have been sentenced. Meanwhile, the state House of Representatives could take steps to impeach Melvin.


Rep. Glen Grell, R-Cumberland, said Thursday a resolution that would be the first step in an impeachment is prepared and co-sponsors are being sought. He said he expects it to be formally introduced when the House returns to session March 11, unless something, such as a resignation, renders it unnecessary.


Following her conviction, Melvin has 30 days to respond to charges of misconduct filed with the Court of Judicial Discipline by the state’s Judicial Conduct Board. The court ultimately has the power to order her removal from office.


Melvin also faces possible disbarment by the Disciplinary Board of the state Supreme Court, though that’s a separate proceeding.


Melvin won a 10-year term on the court in 2009. She was charged in May and then suspended without pay in August. Melvin is just the second known Supreme Court justice in Pennsylvania to be convicted in nearly three centuries.


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