Attorneys for suspended Pa. SC justice won't say if she'll testify at trial

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 12, 2013

PITTSBURGH (Legal Newsline) -- Attorneys for suspended Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin will not say whether she will take the stand.

Defense attorney Daniel Brier told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review "no comment," when asked on Friday if Melvin would testify.

Her corruption trial began late last month.

However, Brier told the newspaper he expected closing arguments by the end of this week.

Last month, the state Supreme Court denied a motion by Melvin seeking to dismiss the public corruption charges against her.

The state's high court did not provide any additional comment in its brief Jan. 10 order.

Justice Max Baer, the order noted, did not participate in the decision. Baer campaigned against Melvin in 2003.

Melvin's lawyer -- Patrick Aloysius Casey, of the Scranton, Pa., firm Myers Brier and Kelly -- had argued that her prosecution violated the separation of powers mandated in the Pennsylvania Constitution and U.S. Constitution.

The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, in a response, said the justice's argument lacked merit.

In May, Melvin was suspended by the state's high court in the wake of pending charges that she allegedly used her office staff to perform campaign work.

The Court said at the time that it made its decision after receiving notification from the District Attorney's Office.

Soon after, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. charged Melvin with nine criminal counts, including three counts of theft of services, two counts of criminal conspiracy to commit tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, two counts of official oppression, and one count each of criminal conspiracy to commit theft of services and misapplication of entrusted property of government.

The criminal docket sheet in the case shows that Melvin has been charged with seven criminal counts, which include diversion of services, conspiracy and official oppression.

The two counts of official oppression and criminal solicitation were dismissed by a magisterial district judge during her preliminary arraignment.

Melvin's sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, was convicted on similar public corruption charges last year and subsequently sentenced to 2 and 1/2 to 10 years in state prison.

Another sister, Janine Orie, who worked with Melvin as an administrative assistant, is being charged alongside the justice in the current case.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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