Convicted ex-judge mails out court-ordered apology letters

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

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice ordered to send apology letters to every other judge in the state as part of her criminal sentence on campaign corruption charges has finally mailed them.

Other judges on Thursday began receiving Joan Orie Melvin’s letters, which begin: “Please allow me to apologize for my conduct.”

Senior Allegheny County Judge Lester Nauhaus, who sentenced Melvin following her 2013 conviction and ordered her to write the apologies to reflect her “stunning arrogance,” had rejected previous letters in which Melvin acknowledged only, “As a matter of law, I am guilty of these offenses.”

The judge told Melvin that “isn’t an apology.”

The state Superior Court, where Melvin served when she illegally used her staff during her 2003 and 2009 campaigns for a state Supreme Court seat, rejected Nauhaus’ requirement that Melvin write the apology letters on a picture of her in handcuffs, saying that served no purpose but to “shame and humiliate her.”

Melvin, 59, of Wexford, was also fined $55,000 and sentenced to three years’ house arrest during which she may leave home only for church, medical appointments or community service at a charity soup kitchen.

Melvin stopped appealing her conviction in October, but it was delayed by the judge’s concerns about her apology letter.

The first letter was couched in legalese, saying, “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.”

In the new letter, Melvin wrote, “I fully acknowledge any harm caused by my crimes and accept responsibility for my conduct.”

“As a former member of the Pennsylvania Judiciary, I realize that my conduct has impacted the public’s perception toward the judiciary and the difficulty it has imposed upon the discharge of your responsibilities as a judge. I accept responsibility for the crimes for which I have been convicted. I regret any harm my conduct has caused you,” she wrote.

Nauhaus didn’t immediately return a call to his chambers seeking comment on the letter.

Former state Sen. Jane Orie, Melvin’s sister, was sentenced to 2½ to 10 years in prison after a separate trial in which she was convicted of using her own staff on her campaigns and using forged documents at the first of her two trials.

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