PA Justice Orie-Melvin to step aside to fight criminal charges

Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justice Jane Orie Melvin turned herself in this morning to face nine criminal charges against her, filed by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zapala. 

“In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety and in accordance with precedent, Justice Orie Melvin is voluntarily recusing herself from all judicial duties pending resolution of the criminal charges,” wrote William I. Arbuckle III, who has been representing the justice in a pending Judicial Conduct Board investigation. 

He continued, “She is not resigning from the court. The justice denies any wrongdoing and will vigorously defend these politically motivated criminal charges.” 

The charges stem from illegal use of state funds and state employee in electoral politics.  Similar charges brought down Justice Melvin’s sister, State Senator Jane Orie, who is to be sentenced on June 4, 2012 after being convicted of 14 of 24 criminal charges against her.  Of the 9 pending criminal charges, four are felonies. 

The charges are the result of a Grand Jury Investigation that investigated whether Justice Melvin illegally used paid staffer for campaign purposes.  The grand jury investigation mirrors the investigation by the Attorney General’s Office that concluded with several Pennsylvania Legislative leaders being convicted, namely former Speakers H William DeWeese and John Perzel, former Majority Whip Mike Veon, and others.  The presentment stated:

“It now appears that not only was Justice Orie Melvin directly and knowingly involved in using state paid staffers from both the judicial and legislative branches of the Pennsylvania government in her political campaign activities, but it also appears that she was aided in those endeavors by two accomplices, co-conspirators, and siblings “Janine Mary Orie and Jane Clare Orie,” the presentment states.

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