Penn ex-justice won't have to send out photo of self in handcuffs

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 22, 2014 4:37 PM

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG Pa. (Reuters) - A former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice is studying an appeals court ruling that upheld her corruption conviction but released her from a requirement that she send a photo of herself in handcuffs to other judges, her lawyer said on Friday.

The former justice, Joan Orie Melvin, was found guilty last year of using public employees to work in her 2009 campaign for a seat on the Supreme Court.

In upholding the conviction, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled on Thursday that a requirement that she send the photographs as part of her punishment went too far and was not authorized under the state’s sentencing code.

“This condition was not imposed to promote her rehabilitation, but rather to shame and humiliate her in the eyes of her former colleagues in the judiciary,” Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue wrote.

Melvin’s lawyer, Patrick Casey of Scranton, said his client was disappointed the court had upheld the conviction and they would study the opinion before deciding whether to appeal.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Lester G. Nauhaus sentenced Melvin, 57, to three years of house arrest, two years of probation, a $20,000 fine, and work at a soup kitchen three times a week.

Because of what he said was Melvin’s refusal to accept responsibility for what she did, Nauhaus included a requirement that she write annual letters of apology to all of the state’s county and appellate judges on the back of a photo of herself in handcuffs.

“I don’t believe she is evil,” he said in language included in the Superior Court opinion. “But I do believe her arrogance is stunning. She is a person of privilege and ... believes she can pick and choose what rules she follows.”

Believe Him
Katie Pavlich

The Superior Court said the letter itself is fine, but not the requirement that she write it on the photo, which was taken by a court photographer.

In addition to Melvin, two of her sisters - former state Senator Jane Orie, 52, and Janine Orie, 59, who worked for Melvin as a secretary - were convicted in separate trials in the case. Some of the employees involved in the charges worked for Jane Orie and some for Melvin.

The sisters come from a prominent Pittsburgh family. Jane Orie resigned from the legislature after she was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. Janine Orie was sentenced to a year of house arrest.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)