State Superior Court to hear arguments on Orie Melvin's appeal

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The state Superior Court will hear arguments on the appeal of former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

Sitting in a session in Lawrence County next month, a three-judge panel will listen as defense attorneys for Orie Melvin argue in favor of a new trial.

The former justice was convicted on six counts last year for using judicial and legislative staffers to run election campaigns in 2003 and 2009.

She was initially sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus to serve three years' house arrest, but her sentence has been stayed pending appeal.

Attorneys for Orie Melvin have cited 15 reasons she deserves a new trial, including insufficiency of evidence.

They said she should never have been tried because her actions simply amounted to a violation of internal court policy.

The defense argues that an out-of-county judge should have tried the case because Orie Melvin previously sat on the Allegheny County bench and because of a potential conflict of interest.

One of the key witnesses against Orie Melvin was Lisa Sasinoski, a former law clerk and wife of a sitting Common Pleas Court judge.

But the prosecution responded that Orie Melvin hadn't been a county judge since 1997, and that Ms. Sasinoski was not the primary accuser.

As for the claim that Orie Melvin's actions did not violate the law, the district attorney's office strongly disagreed, saying that she wasn't prosecuted for purely political activity.

Instead, she was charged for making employees being paid state wages perform work for her private gain.

Molly Born: or 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @molly_born. First Published April 11, 2014 9:17 AM

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