Statement of Eric Epstein, Rock the Capital Re: Status of Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin

Posted by By at 17 January, at 10 : 52 AM Print

In 2003 Judge Orie Melvin lost her bid to become a Supreme Court Justice, but she was given a gift on July 7, 2005. Superior Court Orie Melvin’s salary jumped 11% from $145,658 to $162,100. But she balked, and filed a lawsuit in October, 2006 asking for permission to reject the pay raise based on her “moral convictions.” In early December, 2006, Rock the Capital supported the Commonwealth Foundation’s Amicus Curiae on behalf of Judge Orie Melvin.

However, the State Supreme Court upheld a Commonwealth Court Opinion in September 2008 that compelled Judge Orie Melvin to accept the raise, but allowed that she could donate the money to charity.

In 2009 Judge Joan Orie Melvin ran for Supreme Court. She was endorsed by the Republican  Party, and rated “Highly Recommended” by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Judge Orie Melvin won a seat on the high court by campaigning on the issue of judicial corruption in Luzerne County. She also criticized the high court for approving the legislative and judicial pay raise of 2005. Judge Orie Melvin stated, “I delivered my message of reform, transparency and accountability.”

Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin is now the “target” of a Grand Jury investigation. (The Allegheny County Investigating Grand Jury, Criminal Division, CP-02-AD-112-2010 ).

The Pennsylvania Constitution is crystal clear as to what constitutes “prohibited actives.”[1] It’s time for Judge Orie Melvin to revisit her “moral convictions,” and  take a leave of absence prior to January 23, 2012. Otherwise, Chief Justice Ronald Castile has the legal and moral obligation to order Justice Orie Melvin to take an indefinite leave of absence without pay until[2] these charges are addressed.[3]

If Chief Justice Castille is unwilling to act – and Justice Orie Melvin is unable to do the right thing -  the House of Representatives[4] must police the Court, and implement a “values verdict” by instigating an Impeachment proceeding.[5]

The core requirement to being a successful judge is a basic knowledge of right from wrong. Failure to arrest the decaying situation on the Supreme Bench will only serve to lower the public’s perception of the Court system.

The Commonwealth may already face financial exposure and liability for cases in which Judge Orie Melvin participated after the date of the Presentment. Some cases that bear similarity to the allegations leveled against Judge Orie Melvin may be appealable or ripe for rehearing.[6]

The Pennsylvania court system is in need of an outside audit or investigation by the Department of Justice that would result in widespread reform and implementation of Best Practices and Lessons Learned.

Photo by arrikj

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Article V; Section 17; Prohibited Activities,(b) Justices and judges shall not engage in any activity prohibited by law and shall not violate any canon of legal or judicial ethics prescribed by the Supreme Court.
  2. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices are the third highest paid in the nation. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille’s annual salary is $200,992.14. Associate Justices are now paid $195,308.60 annually after the 3.0% COLA.
  3. Article V, Suspension, Removal, Discipline and Compulsory Retirement Section 18. (h) Upon an order for suspension or removal, the justice or judge shall be suspended or removed from office, and his salary shall cease from the date of such order.
  4. Article VI, Power of Impeachment, Section 4.
  5. Article VI: Officers Liable to Impeachment  Section 6.
  6. Potential conflicts may arise from cases including, but not limited to: Criminal Conspiracy, 18 Pa.C.S.A. §903; ; Theft By Deception, 18 Pa. C.S.A. §3922; Theft Of Services, 18 Pa. C.S.A. §3926; Theft By Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds Received, 18 Pa. C.S.A. §3927;  Violations of Pennsylvania Election Code (25 P.S.), and, Willful Misconduct (43 P.S. § 802(e)).

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This post was written by:
- who has written 352 posts for Rock The Capital
Eric J. Epstein is RocktheCapital‘s coordinator and a community advocate for good government for over 25 years. Mr. Epstein is also Chairman of the Three Mile Island Alert, Inc., a safe-energy organization founded in 1977; President of EFMR Monitoring Group, Inc., a non-profit economic development corporation established in 1977, and Chairman of the Stray Winds Area Neighbors (SWAN), a smart growth association organized in 2005. Mr. Epstein was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Humanities at PSU-Harrisburg (1992-1999) and co-authored the Dictionary of the Holocaust, which was released by Greenwood Press (1997) - Email Eric Epstein

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