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Melvin sister to be fired, 8 aides to be furloughed

| Tuesday, June 5, 2012, 8:10 p.m.

Nine state Supreme Court employees who worked in suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin's Downtown office soon will be out of a job while she fights criminal corruption charges, court officials said Tuesday.

State court officials will fire Janine Orie -- Melvin's sister and longtime aide -- effective June 16 and furlough eight other Melvin employees without pay, said Art Heinz, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. Melvin is not hearing cases and her staff has no work, Heinz said.

Orie, 57, of McCandless was suspended April 9, 2010, two days after Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. charged Orie and her sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, with mixing politics with state work to win elections. A judge on Monday sentenced Jane Orie, 50, to 2 12 to 10 years in prison.

Janine Orie's paid suspension switched to one without pay and benefits on July 26, 2010, Heinz said. Her salary was $67,000 a year.

Court officials escorted Melvin's employees out of her office in the Grant Building on May 18, when Zappala charged Melvin with nine counts, including four felonies, based on allegations she used state-paid staff to do political work for her 2003 and 2009 campaigns.

Officials did not provide names of her employees. State payroll records show such employees make $50,000 to $60,000 a year.

Melvin, 56, a Marshall Republican, vowed to fight the charges.

Janine Orie's attorney, James DePasquale, did not return a call for comment. She faces trial in August.

The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline scheduled a hearing for Tuesday in Harrisburg to determine whether Melvin continues to receive her $195,309 salary. The court can suspend or remove judges.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning delayed Melvin's preliminary hearing in Pittsburgh Municipal Court from Friday to July 9.

Melvin's attorney, Patrick Casey, asked for a delay because he will be in Dublin, Ireland, on a family vacation for two weeks this month.

Manning did not rule on a request that all county judges recuse themselves from handling Melvin's case.

Casey, who did not return a call seeking comment, wrote that the Code of Judicial Conduct mandates it. He said Melvin, a county judge from 1990-1997, in 1991 ran against Judges Kathleen Durkin and David Cashman and served with others assigned to the criminal division.

Casey said the defense might call Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski as a witness at the preliminary hearing. His wife, Lisa Sasinoski, was a chief law clerk for Melvin and is a prosecution witness. Lisa Sasinoski left to work for Justice Max Baer, who beat Melvin in the 2003 race for Supreme Court.

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