Report: Former Pa. SC justice gets house arrest, ordered to write apology letters

By Jessica M. Karmasek | May 8, 2013

PITTSBURGH (Legal Newsline) -- Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin was sentenced Tuesday to house arrest and ordered to write letters of apology to members of her staff and family members after being convicted of corruption.

The Legal Intelligencer reported that Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Lester Nauhaus gave Melvin three years of house arrest and ordered her to send a photo of herself along with the apology letters.

In addition to members of her staff and family, the judge ordered Melvin to send the letters to each member of the state's judiciary and her sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie's staff.

In February, 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 also were 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. Nauhaus declared the jurors hung on that count.

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.

Melvin resigned her seat on the state's high court in March. Her resignation was effective May 1.

On Tuesday, Nauhaus ordered Janine Orie to one year of house arrest and to write similar letters of apology to members of Melvin's staff and those members of Jane Orie's staff.

As for the former justice, Nauhaus also ordered her to serve in a soup kitchen and pay a fine, the Intelligencer reported.

Last month, lawyers for Melvin asked that she receive a sentence of probation.

The former justice's lawyers argued that her history of public service and as a strong wife and mother warranted probation -- not 30-48 months incarceration, which is what prosecutors were seeking.

According to the Intelligencer, Nauhaus said there was no point to sentencing Melvin and her sister to prison, calling it a "silly deterrent."

Until a successor is qualified, the state's high court has said it will continue to operate with six justices.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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