On Thursday, The Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld the conviction of former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin but the requirement that Orie Melvin write letters of apology to every jurist in the state on a photograph of herself in handcuffs that was taken on the day of her sentencing as being too harsh a penalty. Melvin, and her sister who was her former, aide Janine Orie each received house arrest for being found guilty of illegally using the judge's state-funded staff as part of her two campaigns for a seat on the state's highest court. Prosecutors had asked for jail time but in addition to the house arrest Melvin was ordered to volunteer in a soup kitchen and pay $55,000 in fines.
The original sentence that was handed down by Allegheny County Judge Lester Nauhaus who also ordered that Melvin be handcuffed and have her picture taken so that she would have to sign the pictures 3 panel with an apology to several hundred state judges.. According to the decision, Judge Christine Donohue. Stated that “at the time it was taken [immediately after sentencing], Orie Melvin was no longer in police custody and was otherwise free to go home to begin house arrest. She was not in restraints at that time, and the trial court directed that she be placed in handcuffs only to take the photograph.”
The 3 judge panel also said in the decision that Melvin would still be required to send out notes of apologies as it “addresses the trial court’s intent to rehabilitate her by requiring her to acknowledge her wrongdoing.” Melvin’s attorneys hard originally argued that the apology letters was a violation of her right to protect against self-incrimination. But the panel disagreed. The court stated that, “We are aware of no federal or Pennsylvania state law, and Orie Melvin has not cited to any, which supports the notion that the right against self-incrimination extends beyond the pendency of a direct appeal.” The decisions continued “As a result, we must conclude that Orie Melvin is not entitled to relief from the apology letters requirement on constitutional grounds after her direct appeal has been decided.”
The three judge panel consisted of Judge Donohue, Judges John Musmanno and Judge Paula Ott. In a separate opinion, the court also upheld the related conviction of the judge’s sister, Janine Orie, who was on her judicial staff.