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Ex-judge must say she's sorry, just not in cuffs

Saturday - 8/23/2014, 7:00pm  ET

MARK SCOLFORO
Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- A former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice convicted of corruption was spared on Thursday the further embarrassment of having to write her court-ordered apologies to every judge in the state on photos of herself in handcuffs.

A state appeals court upheld the conviction of Joan Orie Melvin and said she still must write apologies to the state's judges. But it found the photo requirement served no legitimate purpose and was meant only to "shame and humiliate her."

Melvin was convicted of theft, conspiracy and other charges in 2013 for using court staff and other public workers to aid her campaigns for a seat on the court.

A judge ordered the handcuff picture taken after she was sentenced to three years of house arrest.

Referring to the requirement the apologies be written on the photo, the court panel wrote that "in no sense can this unorthodox gimmick be construed as legitimately intended for her rehabilitation."

"This condition was not imposed to promote her rehabilitation, but rather merely to shame and humiliate her in the eyes of her former colleagues in the judiciary," the court wrote.

Melvin's attorney said the former judge is disappointed in the overall ruling and is evaluating the decision, but would not comment further. The prosecutor's office declined to comment.

Melvin had argued the required letters would violate her right against self-incrimination and state sentencing rules. The appeals court found the photo requirement was a punitive sanction not allowed under Pennsylvania's sentencing code.

In addition to house arrest, her sentence included a fine, work in a soup kitchen and the letters to about a thousand judges as well as members of her former staff who did illegal work for her at her behest. The photo requirement did not extend to the letters to be written to staff members.

In a separate opinion, the court also upheld the related conviction of the judge's sister, Janine Orie, who was on her judicial staff.


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