PITTSBURGH — Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin avoided prison time Tuesday for her campaign corruption conviction but was ordered to send written apologies to every judge in the state because she abused her office.
Melvin and her sister and former aide Janine Orie each received house arrest for illegally using the judge’s state-funded staff as part of her two campaigns for a seat on the state’s highest court.
Allegheny County Judge Lester Nauhaus chided Melvin for engaging in crimes of “arrogance” and ordered her to immediately have her picture taken by a county photographer, so she can write apologies on them and send them to several hundred state judges.
Although Nauhaus didn’t imprison the women as prosecutors hoped, he admonished Melvin for claiming to be a role model for her children.
“What kind of role model are you? These are felonies, this isn’t a parking ticket, and your children’s mother is a convicted felon,” Nauhaus told Melvin, 57, a married mother of six.
The sisters were convicted of theft of services and other crimes for using Melvin’s former court staff— and the staff of a third sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie — to work on Melvin’s political campaigns in 2003 and 2009. Melvin was a Superior Court judge at the time, and lost the first election before voters picked her for the state’s highest court.
Melvin, a devout Catholic, was sentenced to three years of house arrest during which she may leave only for church — unless she receives specific permission from the judge for other activities — followed by two years’ probation.
Janine Orie, 58, was sentenced to one year of house arrest and two years of probation for helping coordinate the illegal campaigning.