Controversy over Likely Indictment of Supreme Court Justice Orie Melvin

February 17, 2012

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James has rejected state Sen. Jane Orie’s request for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the source of leaked grand jury information revealing that Orie’s sister, Justice Joan Orie Melvin, would likely be indicted in the near future. Orie Melvin is the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice whose judicial campaign allegedly benefited from Sen. Orie’s use of taxpayer-funded legislative staff for the judge’s fundraising purposes. Prosecutors did not originally charge Justice Orie Melvin in the matter, but did charge Sen. Orie and a third sister, Janine Orie, separately.
 
Sen. Orie’s attorney claims that there was no improper use of office personnel and that the prosecution is motivated entirely by partisan state politics. Following reports that Justice Orie Melvin had received a grand jury target letter, Sen. Orie requested a special prosecutor to determine if prosecutors had purposely leaked this confidential information to the public in order to influence Sen. Orie’s trial. Allegheny County District Attorney Lawrence Claus called these “unsubstantiated, bald accusations” and said that “various attorneys associated with the Orie family, and even one member of the Orie family itself, have been identified as the source of those reports...” Following Judge James’ denial of Sen. Orie’s request, Orie faces a new trial before Judge Jeffrey A. Manning beginning later this month.