Melvin appeal cites actions of prosecutors, judge
By Bobby Kerlik
Published: Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, 7:42 p.m.
Attorneys for former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin claim Allegheny County prosecutors overstepped their authority in pursing criminal charges against her and the judge overseeing the case was biased.
The argument came in a 100-page appeal of Melvin's conviction filed last week to Superior Court. The appeal outlines 15 reasons why Melvin's conviction or sentence should be overturned.
Mike Manko, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s spokesman, declined to comment on Monday.
A jury convicted Melvin, 57, of Marshall of using her Superior Court seat to campaign for the court. Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus sentenced her in May to three years of house arrest and two years' probation, to work at a soup kitchen three days a week and write letters of apology on the front of a picture of her in handcuffs.
Nauhaus last month released Melvin from her sentence pending the outcome of her appeal. The Superior Court ruled that Melvin does not have to comply with the photo portion of the sentence.
Melvin's attorneys claim that Zappala overstepped his authority in seeking to discipline judges for breaking court rules because that power is delegated to the Supreme Court.
“This case involves an unprecedented and constitutionally invalid effort by a local district attorney to prosecute alleged violation of a non-criminal, court-imposed restriction on political activity by court employees,” the appeal states.
Melvin's attorneys claim that Nauhaus favored the prosecution in rulings.
“Through his words and actions, the trial court regularly and repeatedly communicated to the jury his belief that the charges against Orie Melvin had substantial merit and that her defense was not worthy of credence,” according to the appeal.
Nauhaus declined to comment.
Among the claims of judicial errors in the case:
• Failing to appoint an out-of-county judge to hear the case.
• Failing to dismiss charges based on alleged 2003 conduct in violation of the statute of limitations.
• Not allowing Melvin to introduce evidence related to the productivity of her chambers.
• Giving the jury additional instructions after deliberations started.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.
- Mail for IRS delivered to Squirrel Hill home
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Indiana County chase ends with car in pond
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- California University of Pennsylvania offers training for weather spotters
- York teen suspended for asking Miss America to prom
- Suspicious package found in Larimer
- Rossi: Pens sticking to power-play plan
- Pa. unemployment rate falls to lowest since 2008; 12,000 more enter workforce
- Hempfield native, 22, publishes with local independent press