Judge overseeing Joan Orie Melvin case wants trial set this year
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Attorneys who will try the criminal case of suspended state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin still do not have a trial date.
Both sides met Friday before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus, who is newly assigned to the case after it was transferred last month.
Justice Orie Melvin is charged with seven criminal counts that she used her judicial staff to campaign in races for the state's high court in 2003 and 2009.
Her sister, Janine Orie, who worked as an office administrator for her, is also charged.
During a brief hearing Friday before Judge Nauhaus, he asked when Justice Orie Melvin's defense attorneys would be ready to go to trial.
"I don't want a rush to judgment here," the judge said. "But I will not stand for footdragging.
"Can we get this case out of the way this year?"
Patrick Casey, who represents the justice, indicated otherwise and suggested February for trial.
"That's way too far in the future," Judge Nauhaus said.
He noted that because the state Supreme Court is now left with just six justices, who are ideologically split 3-3, "the judiciary of this commonwealth is at a standstill."
The judge left open the trial date and set next Friday for another hearing on the matter and to discuss any additional discovery matters.
Both Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus and James DePasquale, who represents Janine Orie, indicated they would like to go to trial as soon as possible.
The men are familiar with the evidence in the case, as they have tried it before.
Another sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, has already been tried and convicted on related charges.
Jane and Janine Orie went to trial together in early 2011, but that case ended in a mistrial when prosecutors alleged that the senator submitted fraudulent documents to the court.
Jane Orie was retried early this year and convicted on theft of services, ethics violations and forgery counts. She is currently in state prison, serving 21/2 to 10 years in prison.
Janine Orie's retrial was severed from the senator's, but Judge Jeffrey A. Manning last month issued an order joining her case with that of Justice Orie Melvin, before he assigned the case to Judge Nauhaus.
First Published September 15, 2012 12:00 am