Ex-Justice Joan Orie Melvin disbarred by consent agreement

In this May 18, 2012 photo Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin (right), speaks to reporters outside Pittsburgh Municipal Court in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has agreed to be disbarred as a result of her conviction on campaign corruption charges, which also led to her resignation from office.
Melvin submitted the resignation of her law license on Dec. 9. That resignation was accepted Thursday by the Supreme Court and announced Friday.
In her resignation, Melvin acknowledged she was the subject of a complaint pending before the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. That stemmed from her 2013 conviction on charges that she had her state-paid Superior Court staff work on her political campaigns on state time when she ran for the Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009.
Melvin, 58, of Wexford, was also convicted of conspiring to use the state-paid staffers of her sister, former Republican state Sen. Jane Orie, to work on those same campaigns. Orie was disbarred by consent last month, but plans to appeal her 2012 conviction on charges that she misused her own state-paid staff on her own campaigns, though she was acquitted of ordering her staff to work on Melvin’s campaigns.
Melvin’s defense attorney Patrick Casey was checking with Melvin Friday to see if she wanted him to comment on her disbarment.
Melvin recently ended her appeals, which included challenging a sentence requirement that she send handwritten apologies for her actions on photographs of herself in handcuffs to other state judges.
The Superior Court overturned the photo requirement imposed by Allegheny County Judge Lester Nauhaus, finding it served no legitimate purpose and was meant only to “shame and humiliate” Melvin.
As a result, the judge in November reinstated the rest of Melvin’s sentence, including three years’ house arrest, a $55,000 fine, and community service at a soup kitchen. Melvin is allowed to leave her house only for church on Sundays, Christmas Eve and the Catholic holy days, and for medical appointments authorized by the court.
Nauhaus also ordered Melvin to write personalized letters of apology to each judge in the state, saying the text of a form letter she submitted to the court “isn’t an apology.”
In it, Melvin had written, “I was accused of misusing my office to assist in my campaigns for Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009. I plead not guilty. I was afforded a trial and I was found guilty. I have now exhausted my direct appeal rights. As a matter of law, I am guilty of these offenses.”
Nauhaus imposed the apologies because he didn’t believe Melvin deserved incarceration unlike her sister, the former senator, who was sentenced to 2½ to 10 years in prison by another judge after a separate trial. Rather, Nauhaus said he crafted his sentence to reflect Melvin’s “stunning arrogance.”

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