No Jail Time For Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice

Posted On Thursday, May 9, 2013

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.