ShareThis Page

Orie Melvin should be forced to write apology, DA's office says

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 1:12 p.m.
Former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin poses for a picture in handcuffs after her sentencing in May 2013. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus ordered the photo taken and told Melvin to send the photo and an accompanying apology to all 500 judges in Pennsylvania. The Superior Court upheld the letter-writing, but ruled the letters didn't have to be on pictures of Melvin in handcuffs.
State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin leaves the Allegheny County Courthouse on Thursday, February 21, 2013, after being found guilty on six of seven campaign corruption charges. Her sister, Janine Orie, was found guilty on all six charges she faced. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review

Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin will remain an “arrogant, power-abusing, convicted felon” if she doesn't fulfill her sentence and write apologies to judges and former employees, an Allegheny County deputy district attorney argued before the state Superior Court on Tuesday.

The appellate court last week issued a temporary stay of the portion of Melvin's sentence ordering her to send letters of apology to her former staff and sitting judges — accompanied by a picture of herself in handcuffs — while it considers whether Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus gave her an illegal sentence. Nauhaus also sentenced the former jurist to serve three years of house arrest and two years on probation and to work at a soup kitchen three days a week.

Her attorneys, Dan Brier and Pat Casey, did not return calls for comment.

Melvin, 57, of Marshall contends the apology part of her sentence requires her to incriminate herself. According to Melvin's motion for an emergency stay, Nauhaus plans to schedule a probation violation hearing because she failed to send the apology letters.

In a maritime-themed response, Deputy District Attorney Michael W. Streily argued that Melvin — whom a jury convicted of using judicial staff to run her election campaigns in 2003 and 2009 — “launched the proverbial ship” by issuing an apology in court. Streily said sending letters of apology “is asking nothing more than to add another port of call to the appellant's rehabilitative journey.”

Melvin isn't being forced to make an admission of guilt, only to write onto the photograph the words she spoke in court, Streily said.

“She will suffer no injury if she complies with Judge Nauhaus' directive,” he said.

Melvin, he said, “was the captain of the ship, which was her judicial chambers. That ship sank, and a lot of people were injured because of appellant's criminal conduct. The agency for which Joan Orie Melvin worked has had its reputation tarnished.”

Melvin is one of three Orie sisters convicted in Allegheny County for using political office for personal gain.

A jury convicted former state Sen. Jane Orie, 52, of McCandless in March 2012 of forgery, conflict of interest and theft of services. She is serving 2 12 to 10 years in prison. A third sister, Janine Orie, 59, of McCandless, is serving one year of house arrest for her role in her sisters' schemes.

The family has accused District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., a Democrat, of going after the Republican family because of political differences. Zappala, who could not be reached for comment, has denied that claim.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.