Pennsylvania’s highest court has suspended one of its justices who faces nine criminal charges for allegedly using state-paid staff to work on her political campaign. The State Supreme Court has relieved Justice Joan Orie Melvin of her judging duties.
The order came shortly after a letter from Orie Melvin’s attorney saying she would voluntarily, temporarily step down while she fights charges levied against her.
Bruce Ledewitz, professor of law at Duquesne University, called the letter “ludicrous.””It’s equivalent to somebody jumping out of a plane without a parachute and agreeing voluntarily to hit the ground,” he said. Ledewitz added Orie Melvin’s decision not to resign leaves the court hamstrung, with three Democrats and three Republicans on the bench. “It’s a court of six, until her criminal charges are resolved; and it’s a kind of a disaster for everybody, not just for her but for the court and the people of Pennsylvania,” Ledewitz said. A spokesman for the state court system says the Supreme Court still could select a senior judge to handle Orie Melvin’s duties while she’s away. She’ll continue to collect pay and benefits.