State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin makes her way into Pittsburgh Municipal Court, Downtown, for day two of her preliminary hearing Tuesday July 31, 2012. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
By Adam Brandolph
Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 11:10Â a.m.
Updated less than a minute ago
Suspended State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin will stand trial on charges she illegally used her taxpayer-funded staff when she was still a Superior Court Judge to campaign for a seat on the high court in 2003 and again in 2009, a judge ruled Tuesday.
District Judge James J. Hanley Jr. said Melvin, 56, of Marshall, will be tried on seven of nine counts, including theft of services, conspiracy, solicitation to tamper or fabricate evidence and official oppression after hearing two days of testimony in MelvinÃ¢Ââ¢s preliminary hearing in Pittsburgh Municipal Court. Melvin, a Republican, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. One count of official oppression and one count of criminal solicitation were dropped.
MelvinÃ¢Ââ¢s attorney, Daniel Brier, said the hearing was the defenseÃ¢Ââ¢s first opportunity to put the charges up to judicial scrutiny.
Ã¢ÂÅ"We will have additional opportunities to challenge (the other) counts, which we believe will withstand strict application to the facts,Ã¢ÂÂ Brier said after the hearing ended.
No trial date has been set.
Two private consultants testified at TuesdayÃ¢Ââ¢s hearing about the work they performed during MelvinÃ¢Ââ¢s 2009 campaign for a seat on the high court.
Tracy Kolich Hall, executive director of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, said she was in daily contact via email and later by phone with Janine Orie, MelvinÃ¢Ââ¢s sister and office manager, during the workday, but much of the campaign work was performed by a private consultant.
Melvin, a Republican, is charged with illegally using her taxpayer-funded staff to campaign for a seat on the high court in 2003 and 2009. She was suspended from the Supreme Court in May after an Allegheny County grand jury recommended charging her with theft of services, conspiracy, solicitation to tamper with or fabricate evidence, official oppression and misapplication of entrusted property. Melvin has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
District Judge James Hanley is presiding over the hearing. He is expected to rule today whether Melvin will go to trial.
OrieÃ¢Ââ¢s defense team has repeatedly questioned witnesses over MelvinÃ¢Ââ¢s separation of schedulers for her judicial and political obligations and has stressed Melvin and Janine OrieÃ¢Ââ¢s use of personal email accounts when discussing campaign issues.
Ã¢ÂÅ"You couldnÃ¢Ââ¢t schedule something for the judge politically until you were sure you werenÃ¢Ââ¢t conflicting with the judicial calendar, right?Ã¢ÂÂ said Dan Brier, one of MelvinÃ¢Ââ¢s attorneys.
Ã¢ÂÅ"Yes,Ã¢ÂÂ Hall said.
On Monday, three former staffers testified that they were expected to perform campaign work when Melvin was still a Superior Court judge during her failed 2003 campaign.
Janine Orie will go to trial in August on charges of theft of services, tampering with evidence, criminal solicitation and conspiracy based on allegations that she used judicial staffers and Jane OrieÃ¢Ââ¢s legislative staffers to campaign for Melvin.
An Allegheny County jury convicted Jane Orie of McCandless in March of using public employees for political activity. Manning sentenced her to 2 1Ã¢Ââ2 to 10 years in prison in June.
Melvin, wearing a pink jacket with black accents, a black skirt and a black blouse, for the second day sat away from the desk behind her attorneys with her daughter, Casey, 24.
The last sitting state Supreme Court justice to be found guilty of criminal charges was Rolf Larsen in 1994. The state House removed him from office later that year.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org
You must be signed in to add comments
To comment, click the Sign in or sign up at the very top of this page.
Top News stories
By Tim Karan
PLUMCREEK - A truck driver lost control of his tractor trailer and smashed through a small house along Route 422 around 12:45 â¦
By Tony Larussa
A severe thunderstorm warning that could produce heavy rain, wind gusts of 60 mph or more and quarter-size hail has been issued for parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland and Armstrong counties, according to the National Weather â¦
By Jeremy Boren
Allegheny County officials on Tuesday released an audit commissioned three years ago to determine if female and minority county employees receive equitable treatment compared to their white, male counterparts. The 63-page report by private consultant â¦
By Bobby Cherry
A Roman Catholic priest on leave from his Sewickley parish officially will step down later this month even though investigators decided not to charge him after a complaint about his Facebook postings to a minor. â¦
Allegheny County police arrested a woman they say shot her neighbor in North Braddock early Tuesday. Arlonda Giles, 29, surrendered to police â¦
By The Tribune-Review
A Washington County man who was selling ice cream to children from a converted van in Somerset Monday may face charges of heroin possession. Somerset Police Chief Randy Cox said officers responded to a call â¦
By Margaret Harding
Police arrested a man suspected of trying to burglarize a Baldwin home after stealing from a Brentwood residence Tuesday morning. A passerby flagged down a Baldwin Borough police officer about 11 a.m. and said it â¦
By Scott Brown
By Salena Zito
LANCASTER Ã¢Ââ Sen. Rob Portman, a contender for the vice presidential ticket, says he knows Republican Mitt Romney is counting on him â¦
By Jerry Dipaola
NEWPORT, R.I. -- Pitt was picked to finish fifth in the Big East preseason media poll released today by the conference. The â¦
By Mary Ann Thomas
Local and state police are investigating whether two previous criminal incidents could be related to a blaze that destroyed a one-story home â¦