Testimony: Pa. Senate worker spent half of 2003 working on Judge Orie Melvin's campaign

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Testimony continued this morning in the case against suspended state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin with a former senate employee testifying that she spent as much as 50 percent of 2003 working on the judge's campaign.

Barbara Brown, who worked for former state Sen. Jane Orie in 2003, said she accompanied then-Superior Court Judge Orie Melvin on campaign stops to a number of law firms, companies and lunch and dinner events all during her legislative work day.

On one such occasion at the Harrisburg Hilton, Ms. Brown saw the judge's opponent, then-Superior Court Judge Max Baer, at the event.

Later that day, she ran into him walking out of Jane Orie's legislative office.

"I was a little concerned," Ms. Brown testified. "The rules are, you do not do political work on state time."

"Did you know those rules?" asked Assistant District Attorney Lisa Mantella.

"Yes."

"Why did you do it?" the prosecutor continued.

"The boss wanted it done," Ms. Brown answered.

When Judge Orie Melvin traveled to Harrisburg, Ms. Brown testified, she would call the legislative office to say she was arriving, and the staffer would in turn call Senate security so the woman could park close to the office.

Ms. Brown also testified that she received comp time for the campaign work she did for the judge.

Earlier in the day, attorneys finished their examination of Jamie Pavlot, Jane Orie's former chief of staff.

Justice Orie Melvin's defense attorney, Dan Brier, questioned the woman about a phone call she received in which she said Jane Orie and the judge instructed her to remove political documents from files she had taken from the office.

One of his questions -- that the prosecution "got" her to say she misspoke -- prompted a retort from Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus.

"Mr. Brier, let's be a little professional in here, all right?"

Later, after the jury had left the room, the judge addressed the attorney again.

"Mr. Brier, you were not in chambers when I told [co-counsel Patrick Casey] about this not being a blood sport in Allegheny County," the judge said. "Do you understand me? This isn't Philadelphia."

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Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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