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Orie Melvin wants court to block judge from modifying her sentence

| Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, 6:51 p.m.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus is overstepping his authority by attempting to adjust the sentence of former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, the former jurist's attorney said.

Scranton attorney Patrick Casey asked the state Superior Court to block Nauhaus from trying to change Melvin's sentence at a hearing scheduled for Thursday. Casey wants the court to issue an order directing Nauhaus to take no further action on Melvin's case while it's on appeal.

“The trial court lacks jurisdiction to scheduled a hearing relating to Orie Melvin's sentence or otherwise modify the sentence while this direct appeal is pending,” Casey said in the five-page application for emergency relief dated Monday.

Nauhaus ordered Melvin to appear before him eight days after a panel of state Superior Court judges said she didn't have to write letters of apology to her staff or the judges of Pennsylvania as part of the sentence Nauhaus imposed.

Melvin, 57, of Marshall was convicted of using her Superior Court seat to campaign for the court. Nauhaus sentenced her to three years of house arrest and two years of probation, work at a soup kitchen three days a week and write the letters of apology on the front of a picture of her in handcuffs.

Melvin objected to the letter-writing, calling it “bizarre and abusive,” and claimed it violated her right against self-incrimination that could be used against her while she appeals.

The district attorney's office argued that Melvin “launched the proverbial ship” by issuing an apology in court, but said it would not appeal the issue further.

A jury convicted Melvin's sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, 52, of McCandless, in March 2012 of forgery, conflict of interest and theft of services. She is serving 2½ 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.

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