Top Pa. judge charged with campaign corruption

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State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin was charged Friday with illegally using her taxpayer-funded staff in her campaigns for a seat on the state's highest court in a scheme that ensnared her sister, a senator awaiting sentencing on similar charges.

Orie Melvin said outside court that she will vigorously defend herself against the nine criminal charges, which a grand jury report called a "tale of corruption" that she "actively condoned and even promoted."

"I am a woman of faith," Orie Melvin said. "My faith will see me through this. And I will not resign because of these politically motivated charges."

The high court relieved her of judicial and administrative duties Friday, but she remains a Supreme Court justice, on the payroll with a $195,000 salary and full benefits. The court also ordered Orie Melvin's Pittsburgh office sealed to secure records, files and equipment that are property of the court.

The charges come two months after her sister Republican state Sen. Jane Orie was convicted of 14 counts of theft of services, conflict of interest and forgery charges. Orie is scheduled to be sentenced in June, and her attorney has said in court filings that she will resign before then.

The grand jury report said Orie Melvin and her staff used personal email accounts to shield the actual email addresses that generated the messages, hiding the fact that political activities were being handled by the staffers while they were on the state payroll. Orie Melvin also used her state-paid telephone line to solicit support from hundreds of Republican committee members around the state, the report said.

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