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Hearing delayed for indicted Pa. Supreme Court Justice Melvin

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By Bobby Kerlik
Tuesday, June 5, 2012, 12:22 p.m.

An Allegheny County judge today granted a 30-day delay in the preliminary hearing for state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin but did not rule on a request that the entire county bench be recused from handling the case. Melvin, 56, a Marshall Republican, was scheduled to appear in Pittsburgh Municipal Court on Friday for a preliminary hearing on the nine pending criminal counts against her. Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning delayed the hearing until July 9. He did not rule on a request to appoint an out-of-county judge to hear the trial. He deferred ruling on that until the preliminary hearing is over. Melvin's new attorney, Patrick Casey, filed the requests Friday. Casey asked for a 60-day delay, saying that he has a planned family vacation to Dublin, Ireland, and will be out of the country from June 9 to June 24. Casey wrote that the Code of Judicial Conduct mandates recusal of the entire Allegheny County bench. He said Melvin, a county judge from 1990-1997, ran against two members of the bench in 1991 who serve in the criminal division - Judges Kathleen Durkin and David Cashman - and "personally served with a number of the judges who are currently seated on the Allegheny County bench, including many judges assigned to the criminal division." Casey also said that Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski may be called as a witness by the defense at the preliminary hearing. Sasinoski's wife, Lisa Sasinoski, was a former chief law clerk for Melvin and is key witness for the prosecution. The judge may be called as a witness "to testify concerning (his wife's) activities during the period in question and circumstances surrounding her separation from employment with Justice Orie Melvin," according to the filing. Lisa Sasinoski worked for Melvin until her unsuccessful 2003 bid for the Supreme Court. Lisa Sasinoski then left to work for Justice Max Baer, who beat Melvin in that race. District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. charged Melvin last month - including with four felonies - based on allegations that she used her state-paid staff to do political work for her 2003 and 2009 election bids for the state's high court.

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