A suspended Republican Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice and her sister have been convicted on multiple corruption counts for their use of paid judicial and legislative staff in judicial campaigns. Justice Joan Orie Melvin’s former clerks and interns had alleged that Melvin forced them 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:
The sisters were charged with misapplication of government funds, theft of services and conspiracy for using the justice’s former Superior Court staff and the legislative staff of a third sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, to run campaigns for the Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009.
Among the allegations are that staffers wrote speeches, drove her to campaign events and worked the polls.
Interns and clerks had also alleged that they faced retaliation for refusing to do the campaign work.
The allegations against Melvin prompted support for the most recent proposal to eliminate judicial elections in Pennsylvania and replace it with merit selection. The bill, however, was killed in June by special interest groups, which aim to install candidates that support their agendas through campaign contributions. Merit selection systems, in which judges are selected by a committee and subject to subsequent retention elections, mitigate the immense political influence and corrupting pressure that accompanies a competitive election.