Joan Orie Melvin sends 2nd, more contrite round of letters to judges
Apology letters from convicted former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin hit the mailboxes of judges across the state this week, a part of her sentence on corruption charges.
An Allegheny County jury in 2013 convicted Melvin, 59, of Marshall of using her Superior Court seat to campaign for the Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009. She lost the 2003 election but won in 2009. Jurors convicted her of using state-paid staffers to work on her campaigns.
Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus sentenced Melvin to three years of house arrest and two years of probation. In addition to the confinement, the judge ordered Melvin to write apology letters to every judge in the state on a picture of herself in handcuffs.
An appeals court upheld the letter-writing but ruled it didn’t have to be on the photograph.
Melvin sent a three-paragraph letter, personally addressed to each judge.
“Please allow me to apologize for my conduct. I fully acknowledge any harm caused by my crimes and accept responsibility for my conduct,” she wrote. “As a former member of the Pennsylvania Judiciary, I realize that my conduct has impacted the public’s perception toward the judiciary and the difficulty it has imposed upon the discharge of your responsibilities as a judge.
“I accept responsibility for the crimes for which I have been convicted. I regret any harm my conduct has caused you.”
This is the second round of letters Melvin sent. Nauhaus ruled the first letters were insufficient, generic and unsatisfactory.
Melvin’s first letter said: “As a matter of law, I am guilty of these offenses.”
Nauhaus said: “This is not an apology.”
He told Melvin each letter must be personalized and written by her, although he stopped short of requiring her to write them by hand.
Melvin is serving her sentence in her 3,650-square-foot home. She is allowed to leave for Sunday Mass, Holy Days of Obligation and Christmas Eve services.
Melvin initially appealed again to the Supreme Court but withdrew the appeal when the court said she couldn’t choose parts of her sentence to begin serving while appealing other parts. That left her the choice of putting off the entire sentence or dropping the appeal.
Melvin’s sister, former Republican Sen. Jane Orie, 53, of McCandless was released from prison in 2014 after serving the minimum of her 2½- to 10-year sentence on charges of forgery, conflict of interest and theft of services.
A third sister and former Melvin staffer, Janine Orie, 60, of McCandless was sentenced to a year of house arrest for her role in her sisters’ schemes.
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or [email protected].