No Jail Time For Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice

Posted On Thursday, May 9, 2013
By: John A. Schwab

On Tuesday, Judge Lester Nauhaus ordered former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin to serve house arrest, not jail time, and to send a personal apology written on a photograph of her posing in handcuffs to all judges in the state. 

Orie Melvin, convicted of misuse of state employees for campaign and political purposes, had requested a sentence without jail time, a request that few thought would be grant.  Judge Nauhaus, however, remarked that imprisonment does not serve as a deterrent to public officials and worked to fashion a creative sentence.  In addition to three years of house arrest, Judge Nauhaus ordered a court photographer take a picture of Ms. Orie Melvin in handcuffs to be used by her in apology letters to be sent to all Pennsylvania judges.  The sentence also included two years probation, a $55,000 fine, and community service at a local soup kitchen.

In February 2013, Orie Melvin and her sister, Janine Orie, were convicted of using Orie Melvin’s staff, all of whom were state-paid employees, for political and fundraising purposes during her 2003 and 2009 election campaigns for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Orie Melvin was a judge on the Pennsylvania Superior Court in 2003 and 2009 and, although she lost the 2003 Pennsylvania Supreme Court election, she was elected to the highest court in 2009. 

A third sister, former Pennsylvania State Senator, Jane Orie, is presently serving 2½ to 10 years for similar crimes – use of state employees for political fundraising and campaigning – following her conviction in March 2012.  Not long after her conviction, Orie Melvin submitted a letter of resignation to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.  In the one-page resignation letter, the then-suspended Supreme Court Justice tendered her resignation effective on May 1, 2013.