Former Clerks Accuse Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Of Major Ethical Violations

Suspended PA Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin (R)

Suspended PA Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin (R)

For the past several weeks, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin (R) has been under suspension from her job and indictment for four felonies and five misdemeanors. In a preliminary hearing yesterday, former clerks alleged that they had been forced to work on her campaign and asked to falsify records to obtain “street money” to get people to the polls.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

[Former former Orie Melvin chief law clerk Lisa] Sasinoski referred back to an incident just before the 2003 general election when she claimed that Janine Orie, the judge’s sister and office manager, asked her to copy receipts and vouchers of her travels with the judge, to make it appear the judge’s other sister, Sen. Jane Orie, accompanied them in their campaign travels. In that way, they could get a check from the campaign treasury, write it out to Jane Orie for reimbursement, and she would then in turn provide the campaign cash to be used as street money. She explained that street money was used to encourage and help people get to the polls.

Now an employee of Justice Max Baer, Ms. Sasinoski testified that at the end of the 2003 election season, she told Ms. Orie Melvin that she could no longer participate in political activity. Two days later, she said Janine Orie demanded her court and building ID.

Another former clerk also testified that she experienced retaliation after she declined to work for Orie Melvin’s campaign on election day.

Special interests and the legislature’s GOP majority killed a constitutional amendment earlier this year that would have switched from elected appellate judges to a merit-based selection system.

The Scranton Times-Tribune, Philadelphia Daily News, and the Philadelphia Bar Association have called for Justice Orie Melvin to resign. While she has refused to do so, the Supreme Court has already split three-three on at least one case and may effectively mean major decisions will be made by lower court judges.