Prosecution rebuts Melvin's argument

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Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin's argument that accusations against her should be handled by the judiciary rather than a criminal trial is lacking in merit, a prosecutor said.

Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus wrote in his answer to Justice Orie Melvin's argument that she is not being prosecuted for pure political activity, but for using state resources for her campaigns for the court, which would be a crime.

"The commonwealth respectfully submits that no jurist can insulate herself from criminal liability by claiming that alleged criminal activity was an extension of politics and conducted within the physical space given to her by the court," the prosecution wrote. "The commonwealth submits that a judicial chamber is not a sanctuary for criminal behavior."

Justice Orie Melvin faces seven criminal charges, including theft of services, criminal conspiracy, official oppression and misapplication of entrusted property.

She is scheduled to go on trial, with her sister, Janine Orie, in January. Ms. Orie worked as the justice's office administrator.

Investigators say they used the judge's staff when she was a Superior Court judge to run her campaigns for the state Supreme Court unsuccessfully in 2003 and successfully in 2009.

"[T]he present case is about alleged misuse of government resources by an elected member of the judiciary; it is not about a judge exercising her First Amendment right to speak about a certain topic, or to hold a political job outside the judiciary," Mr. Claus wrote.

The defense filed a motion earlier this month claiming that the prosecution was constitutionally flawed and that it erodes the independence of the judiciary.

state

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


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