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Convicted Pa. SC justice resigns; Corbett calls decision 'correct'

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Mar 25, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Legal Newsline) -- In a letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett Monday, suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin resigned her seat on the state Supreme Court.

In a news release, the court said her resignation is effective May 1.

Until a successor is qualified, the court said it will continue to operate with six justices.

Corbett said in a statement he approved of Melvin's stepping down.

"I believe the decision by Justice Orie Melvin to resign is the correct one," he said Monday.

"This will save taxpayers the time and expense of impeachment proceedings in the House and Senate, and allow legislators to focus on other important issues.'"

Corbett has 90 days from May 1 to submit a nominee to fill the vacancy.

The nominee, after being confirmed by two-thirds of the state Senate, will serve until Jan. 5, 2016. A successor will be elected in November 2015.

"I will submit a nominee to the Senate as soon as practical within that time frame to bring our Supreme Court back to its full complement of seven justices," Corbett said.

Last month, Melvin and her sister, Janine Orie, were found guilty of corruption for using the justice's office staff to perform campaign work in 2003 and 2009.

Melvin and Orie were also found guilty of theft of services, conspiracy and misapplication of government funds. In addition, Orie was convicted of tampering with evidence and solicitation.

One count -- official oppression -- against Melvin could not be decided by the jury. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus declared the jurors hung on that count.

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.

According to The Associated Press, Melvin could lose her state pension.

The AP reported earlier this month Melvin qualifies for a maximum annual pension of nearly $140,000.

However, she could lose that once she is sentenced in May.

Under Pennsylvania's pension law, officials who commit certain crimes must forfeit their pensions.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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