Orie Melvin attorneys cite suspended Supreme Court justice's work ethic
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Attorneys for Joan Orie Melvin said today that data showing the suspended Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice was productive throughout her time on the Superior Court bench "is central to the defense of this case."
On the 11th day of the trial, Judge Lester Nauhaus and the attorneys argued about whether to submit as evidence statistics that show Justice Orie Melvin was no less productive in 2003 and 2009 than she was any other year.
Prosecutors said the data, brought today by Superior Court deputy reporter Dolores Bianco, was irrelevant and can't account for the length of opinions, the nature of the cases or whether the opinions were overturned.
Judge Nauhaus said just because the numbers show Justice Orie Melvin and her staff completed their work doesn't mean they weren't also working on the campaign.
He also repeatedly called the records "mind numbing" and cautioned against giving the jury more paperwork.
"All this is is a bunch of stats," he said.
Prosecutors are trying to prove Justice Orie Melvin, her Superior Court staffers, and those of her sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, were doing political campaign work in 2003 and 2009.
Justice Orie Melvin is charged with seven counts, including official oppression, theft of services and conspiracy.
Justice Orie Melvin's attorneys are disputing that services have been taken and they said the data is critical to their defense.
Their remarks recalled Dan Brier's opening in Allegheny County Court Jan. 26. In that preamble, he said his client was one of the most productive members of the appellate court, averaging 237 opinions per year.
"The defense is not 'So what?'" Patrick Casey, one of Justice Orie Melvin's attorneys, said. "The defense is that it didn't happen."
Judge Nauhaus dismissed the jury for the weekend about 11:15 a.m., saying he had plans to meet his aunt. He wasn't clear on whether Ms. Bianco would resume her testimony Monday but suggested the attorneys call a summary witness to testify that Justice Orie Melvin and her staff did their work.
Retired Superior Court Judge Joseph Del Sole, the president judge at the time, testified this morning that he arranged another position for Lisa Sasinoski, a key witness against Justice Orie Melvin and her former law clerk, within the system after she left Justice Orie Melvin's office on Dec. 10, 2003.
"Her position was ending," he said.
Judge Del Sole said he was asked by then-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy to find Ms. Sasinoski a position until her job with newly elected Justice Max Baer was to begin on Jan. 4.
Judge Del Sole said he contacted then-Judge Orie Melvin to ask if she objected.
She didn't, he said, so he arranged for Ms. Sasinoski to go to work with the Central Legal office staff.
The prosecution contends that Justice Orie Melvin fired Ms. Sasinoski when she said she would no longer participate in political activities.
The defense has said that Ms. Sasinoski quit when she got a job with Justice Baer, who had defeated Judge Orie Melvin in the 2003 race.
Wayne Raum, director of the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System member services division, testified that there was no break in Ms. Sasinoski's services as an employee when she stopped working for Justice Orie Melvin and started working with Justice Baer.
He noted a code on a document that showed she was on a six-day maternity leave, though she previously testified that she was not pregnant that year.
The prosecution heard testimony from its final witness Thursday.
First Published February 8, 2013 3:23 pm