Orie Melvin Resigns

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has finally resigned in advance of her sentencing in early May.  She and two sisters were convicted in the past year of using their state offices, resources and staffs to run Orie Melvin’s two Supreme Court campaigns.  Former State Senator Jane Orie is already in prison.  Janine Orie was convicted with Orie Melvin in February.  The House Judiciary Committee was already advancing impeachment proceedings when the resignation was announced this week.

This leaves the Supreme Court divided 3-3 on partisan lines so any deadlocks will uphold whatever Superior and Commonwealth Court cases wind up in tie votes.  Gov. Corbett must now appoint someone to resume the eight years of the ten year term now vacated by Justice Orie Melvin.  The State Senate must approve that nominee by two thirds vote meaning the 27-23 GOP majority must gain bipartisan support to approve the Governor’s choice.  This means that person must be a moderate, at least.

Superior Court Judge Jack Panella of Bethlehem ran against Orie Melvin but was handicapped by her illegal use of state employees on her campaign.  He should be the obvious choice since he was the only candidate for the seat who ran a clean, legal campaign.

Joan Orie Melvin, Janine Orie Convicted

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin was convicted today following four days of jury deliberations.  She was convicted of using government funds and staff to campaign for the Commonwealth’s highest court in both 2003 and 2009.  Her sister Janine Orie was also convicted.  The jury couldn’t come to agreement on one charge of official oppression.  The sisters can join former State Senator Jane Orie in state prison.  This is proof that the family which corrupts together gets to stay in prison together.  The Justice now must be removed from the Court and Gov. Corbett will appoint a replacement who will serve the balance of her ten year term.

I heard a lot of rumors about how the former Superior Court Judge was conducting her 2009 campaign and knew it was rife with corruption.  I wrote about some of those allegations at the time.

Orie’s Accused of Dirty Politics

I found this video while further researching the Orie family.  This is a clip from a former staffer for Senator Jane Orie describing the dirty politics used by the Orie sisters.  FactCheck.org called Joan Orie Melvin’s claims against her opponent last year “Pennsylvania Slime.”

Orie Melvin sought to implicate Judge Jack Panella in the Luzerne County “Kids For Cash” scandal though everyone involved said he was not responsible.  In fact everyone said he did everything he was supposed to do to insure it was investigated.  Orie Melvin ran these commercials anyway and incessantly to win the Supreme Court seat.  The sisters seem to think they can do anything, steal signs, make harassing telephone calls or accuse opponents falsely and they did for years with no one holding them accountable.  No wonder Jane Orie and Joan Orie Melvin thought they could run the 2009 Supreme Court campaign from State Senate offices with State Senate staff and resources and not be held accountable.

Their history also shows they mercilessly attack their attackers when caught just as they are doing now.  Of course whatever motives DA Stephen Zappalla has are irrelevant because the evidence speaks for itself here.  Fifteen current or former staffers cooperated and produced considerable evidence and documentation for the Orie crimes.  In fact it seems they couldn’t run to the courthouse fast enough to tell their tales and produce their evidence.  The Ories have run roughshod over people for a decade and now it is payback time.  They are getting their just desserts.

Random Thoughts February 3, 2010

Punxsatawny Phil might, I fear, be correct about six more weeks of winter.  I awoke to the sound of snow plows this morning, not even as welcome a noise as an alarm clock.  They say more is on the way for the weekend.  I don’t know about you but I’m ready for spring!

Following last week’s allegations that Gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato ran former AG candidate John Morganelli ragged Bernie O’Hare reports he didn’t contribute a dime for Jack Panella’s Supreme Court campaign last year.  Lehigh Valley Ramblings has the story.  I have a message in with my friend Judge Panella and will update this when I can.

Update:  I just spoke with Judge Panella.  He doesn’t want to get dragged into this and actually cannot as it is political in nature.  He has no comment.

Congressman Jack Murtha is in the hospital once again.  It isn’t life threatening but doctors had to repair some damage caused by a previous procedure.

Bertha Lewis of ACORN is calling for state Attorneys General in Maryland and California to prosecute James O’Keefe for illegal wiretapping.  “Back when he was stalking ACORN acorss the country, he videotaped ACORN folks without their consent. And that’s illegal in Maryland and California, two states targeted. Now that he’s proven that his law-breaking isn’t a one-shot deal, we are demanding that the Attorneys General in California and Maryland conduct formal investigations of O’Keefe’s actions from last year.  O’Keefe’s arrest comes directly on the heels of a spate of investigations and court decisions [1] that have exonerated ACORN in the wake of his attack videos. The Congressional Research Service [2] and former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger [3] have already concluded that it was O’Keefe, and not ACORN staff, even those fired for acting inappropriately, who broke the law in the undercover videotapes.”

TJ Rooney says he almost forgot to buy his ticket for Friday’s DemFest with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  The Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has to buy a ticket to his own event?  I’d have loaned him my Party Blogger credential and he could have covered it for the blog.  That way I could get home and catch some sleep.

Pictures from The Pennsylvania Progressive Summit (not affiliated with this blog) are up here and here.  Yours truly is in a few.

I promised I’d upload the Blogging 101 PowerPoint to the web.  I contacted Chris Bowers of Open Left for the ideas and thoughts he expressed during the panel for inclusion and I should get that finished today.  Thanks for your patience.  This will make the presentation better.  Thanks Chris.

Former aide Mike Manzo is testifying in the BonusGate trial and he is devastating.  One interesting bit of testimony is his claim that the use of threats about money for staffs and offices to fellow legislators by leadership is devastating.  This is what I’ve been saying for years and demanding be reformed.  When a Majority or Minority Leader can force rank and file legislators into compliance by threatening to pull their staff and district offices, making constituent service and research impossible, we must change that system.

This is the system which keeps frustrating good people like Barbara McIlvaine Smith who opted not to run for re-election.  The old boys club atmosphere against women doesn’t help.  Meanwhile several candidates are vying for her open seat.  This is the seat which gave Democrats control of the State House four years ago.

Are you making cakes, cookies and pies for a local bake sale?  You’re breaking the law in Pennsylvania. I suppose that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  Can you imagine Tom Corbett rounding up a bunch of Amish or Mennonite women in a sting operation?  He’d never get them to trial though because no one could resist eating the evidence.

Is this woman the champion pill popper of all time or is Rush Limbaugh still the champion?

Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin got a withering warning by the Chief Justice about her incompetence after only one month on the bench.  I told you so…

I won’t be watching Sunday’s Super Bowl.  CBS is televising a Focus on the Family commercial featuring Tim Tebow.  In the past this network has refused to air issue oriented advertisements.  They are breaking their own policy.  If you are angry at CBS for this the best way to get back at them is to boycott the game.  That will affect their ad rates for next year’s game.  Hit them where it hurts:  below the belt in their wallet.

Tea Partiers are meeting this week for their “national convention.”  These are people whose hero is Sarah Palin, a former secessionist.  How do you call yourself a patriot when you support a secessionist?  Worse, she ran a socialist state in Alaska.

In all this debate about DADT I’m touched by all these conservatives who adore us so much they want to protect us from death and dismemberment.

Isn’t it nice that Jon and Kate have fallen completely off the media’s radar?  Now how do we get rid of Michael Jackson?

The underwear bomber (sorry I still get past a man wanting to blow off his balls) is cooperating with the FBI.  Instead of torturing people and proving to our enemies we’re as evil as them, smart people who are experts at interrogation got the information without compromising our values and principles.

Elliot Spitzer was on The Colbert Report last night.  Afterwards he celebrated with three hookers.

Rob Kall says an early draft of the constitution has been found.  Maybe now someone can find and salvage the real one.  We do seem to have lost it.

President Obama is congratulating Max Baucus and Chris Dodd for incorporating Republican ideas in the Senate health insurance bill.  Heck, that bill is ALL GOP ideas.

Election Day

Go out and vote today.  The smear ads are over and it is time for us to render our judgments.  If you live in Philadelphia you may be SOL.  SEPTA went out on strike this morning.  I wonder which moron at the transit workers union made this decision?  They hold off for three days because of the World Series then strike on election day???  Do they understand how many corporate, anti-labor Judges are on the ballot?  This is incomprehensible…

Jack Panella will spend the evening home with his wife watching the returns.  It is his tradition and he doesn’t want to jinx his good luck by doing something different.  I’ll be in Bethlehem tonight with the good folks of Northampton County and hope Jack will make an appearance if the race doesn’t go until the early morning hours or even Wednesday.  Polls show the Supreme Court race neck and neck.

The other appellate court races are also important and there are county, local and school board races on the ballot.  Local government affects you every day and these contests have more impact on your life than state and federal elections.  Please, get out there and vote.

Nationally three races are getting attention along with the gay marriage referendums in Maine and Washington.  I expect Chris Christie to prevail in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell in Virginia.  Two races do not make trends however.  Virginia remains a very red state and the voters there weren’t put off by the radical extremism in McDonnell’s thesis so it is obvious they agree with him on women’s subjugated role in our society.  Sometimes you get what you deserve.

Jon Corzine simply wasn’t a very good Governor in New Jersey.  I predict the Daggett vote will break for Christie.  Many voters supporting third party candidates, and Daggett was getting substantial support,  break from them on election day.  People feel voting for Daggett would be a “wasted” (there’s no such thing as a “wasted” vote, every vote is important) vote will opt to go for the Republican Christie.  Chris Daggett is a moderate Republican running as a third Party candidate so his support has been at Christie’s expense and many of them will return to Christie in a close election.

The other focus election is in upstate New York, the 23rd Congressional District.  This fascinating Congressional race is on the ballot because its previous office holder was appointed as head of the Army.  The District hasn’t elected a Democrat since 1886 and don’t expect that to change.  The Republican withdrew a few days ago and endorsed the Democrat over the extremist Teabagger.  This contest is showing there is no room in the GOP any longer for moderates.

Factcheck.org Calls Orie-Melvin Commercial “Pennsylvania Slime”

Factcheck.org has analyzed Joan Orie-Melvin’s attack ad against Jack Panella and found it false.  Worse, their headline calls it “Pennsylvania Slime.”  She continues airing a television commercial even though the noted and respected Annenberg organization says it’s a smear.  Does someone like this, who would stoop this low deserve a seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court?  How could you be sure she’d deal with you fairly?

The commercial accuses Judge Panella, head of the Judicial Conduct Board, of “turning his back on hundreds of kids” in the case of two corrupt Luzerne County Judges.  In fact the U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case says Jack Panella did exactly what he should have:  referred the matter to him promptly for investigation and prosecution.  Judge Orie-Melvin knows her charges are false and a vicious smear yet her lust for power overwhelms her sense of decency.  Factcheck.org has this to say:

But it’s not true that Panella exhibited a “lack of attention” in the matter that “hurt [Pennsylvania] children,” that he “could have stopped the abuses” of kids or that he “turned his back” on them.

Panella, a Superior Court judge, was chairman of the 12-member judicial conduct panel in 2006 when the anonymous complaint came in. It accused Conahan of manipulating the assignment of cases to his fellow judges and hiring relatives and allies to staff the court, and it alleged that Conahan had been seen meeting a reputed mobster. The document also described a close relationship between Conahan, Ciavarella and attorney Robert Powell, who owned a juvenile detention center. According to the complaint, Conahan assigned Ciavarella to hear juvenile cases, and a “stringent” pattern developed in which juveniles were sentenced to serve their time at Powell’s facility rather than at several other facilities where they had been placed in the past.

What’s more five of the other Judges sitting on the Judicial Conduct Board have also claimed Orie-Melvin’s charges as false:

Five former members of the conduct board who served with Panella when the complaint came in have said that, while they are not permitted to discuss the board’s work openly, the ad’s charges are “patently false. The five asked the state GOP to pull the spot, saying it implies “that somehow we looked away from evidence that children were being mistreated.” They said: “Nothing could be further from the truth.” And indeed, there were no such charges in the complaint.

The choice is clear tomorrow.  Vote for Judge Jack Panella.

Karl Rove Jumps Into Supreme Court Race

Political mastermind Karl Rove added his two cents to the race for Supreme Court in this morning’s Wall Street Journal.  In an op-ed piece he mentions the Panella/Orie-Melvin contest as a barometer for voter’s satisfaction with President Obama.  I’m not sure how a state appellate court race qualifies for that status but I’m happy to see the likes of Rove jumping in on behalf of Orie-Melvin.  There’s nothing like memories of the eight years just past to awaken people as to why voting Tuesday is important.  

Karl Rove was George W. Bush’s political mastermind and politicized the entire federal government including the federal Department of Justice.  He subjugated the prosecution of people based on political goals.  He had a sitting Governor imprisoned for political purposes.  Do we really want Karl Rove telling us Joan Orie-Melvin is the person to put on our Supreme Court?  If you liked Alberto Gonzales, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft then take Rove’s advice.

I wonder why someone who appears at Teabagger rallies and speaks anti-government accepts government paychecks and government health care.  This IS Joan Orie-Melvin.  Her sister is a State Senator.  Isn’t it hypocritical of her to perform for fringe elements at Tea Bagger events in Allentown then cash her Superior Court paycheck?  Shouldn’t she then renounce her Pennsylvania government health care?

No, instead she runs smear commercials claiming Judge Panella acted improperly in regard to the Luzerne County Judges when everyone involved says otherwise.  Instead she claims he’s selling justice by accepting oney from trial lawyers while she, herself, is accepting money from the same group.  If Panella is selling justice what is she doing?  Is Orie-Melvin this stupid?  Does she not comprehend that taking money from the same people makes her just as complicit IF that is the case?  Face it, lawyers are always involved in judicial races.  So are big corporations and businesses with stakes in the process.  Though she always sides with big business on the bench Orie-Melvin hasn’t refused their contributions has she?  I haven’t heard Judge Panella accuse her of selling her seat on the bench in return for those contributions.

There is a clear choice for this Supreme Court seat.  Do we want someone so stupid she can’t think clearly or someone with a proven record of competence, integrity and ability like Jack Panella?  Make sure you vote Tuesday.

Orie-Melvin’s World Class Hypocrisy

Supreme Court wanna-be Joan Orie-Melvin has run a despicable campaign and is not fit to be a Judge in any court.  Last week she allowed the Pennsylvania GOP to run an internet ad with a Soviet era hammer and sickle in an attack on her opponent Jack Panella.  She has yet to apologize for the offensive smear.  That alone tells us what kind of character she has.

We already know much about her character however due to her campaign tactics.  It is illegal for a judge candidate to comment on upcoming cases.  Not only is she doing this she’s telling important groups like FOP’s she’ll decide them in their favor in return for their endorsements.  Now this IS pay to play.  Today she accused her opponent of pay to play because trial lawyers have given him money.  I believe the psychologists call this “progression.”  This is where you push your sins onto your foe.  

Yes, Jack Panella took a lot of money from trial lawyers.  Democrats tend to get support from the bar the way Republicans get it from business and corporate interests.  It has something to do with how Repubs are always trying to enact tort reform.  Obviously lawyers aren’t going to support candidates looking to deny us of our rights to due process.  

Interestingly though, Orie-Melvin took a large sum of money from those very same lawyers.  She also took $20,000 from convicted felon Bob Asher.  His crime?  A massive pay to play scandal in which his co-defendant committed suicide on live TV.

From what I have been told Joan Orie-Melvin thinks it is ok to tell the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police she will render decisions favorable to them on upcoming cases before the Court in return for their endorsement but doesn’t think that’s pay to play?  But she does think accepting perfectly legal campaign contributions is?  In my opinion,  her legal reasoning, along with her knowledge of the law, is seriously lacking.  

Apologize for the filthy smear you ran with last week before launching a new one Judge Orie-Melvin.

Orie-Melvin Sinks As Low as You can Go

Judge Joan Orie-Melvin has no decency.  Running for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court she is running a banner ad a major Republican blog with a Soviet era hammer and sickle inside a red font of “Obama.”  How low can you go?  How extreme can you get?  How does Judge Melvin expect voters to take her seriously when she call our President a Communist?  I bet she’s a Birther too.

Ex Judges Claiming Judicial Immunity

The two former Luzerne County Judges being prosecuted for denying juveniles their constitutional rights to due process in return for $2.6 million in cash from a privatized detention system company are fighting a class action lawsuit against them.  Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella are arguing they have judicial immunity from such suits.  Nineteen former judges and legal scholars are contesting the argument claiming such a decision would make the concept a mockery.

The idea of judicial immunity is to protect judges from being sued for actions they take from the bench.  I doubt it was designed to protect corrupt judges who are on the take.

From the brief:

“Application of immunity to judges who admitted under oath to engaging in a criminal scheme for years would indeed be monstrous,” attorney Sara B. Richman, who filed the brief on behalf of the legal scholars, says in court papers. “To find immunity would denigrate the respect of the public for the judiciary, which is dependent upon judges making decisions based on the law and the facts, rather than personal, corrupt motives.”

Abraham Gafni, one of the nineteen wrote this persuasive argument:

“There was a sense of perversion of the legal doctrine of judicial immunity, that it was being applied where it was never intended to be applied,” said Gafni, a former court of common pleas judge. “Judicial immunity is not meant to protect judges who are admittedly engaging in criminal activity.”

The judges are accused of accepting kickbacks in return for sentencing juvenile offenders to the company’s privatized juvenile detention facility.  They denied them right to lawyers during their court proceedings in order to conceal the extent of their judicial misconduct and alleged crimes.  Both judges filed guilty pleas then withdrew them and opted for trials.

Meanwhile Superior Court Judge Jack Panella, head of the ethics commission for the state judges says they received a complaint about Conanhan and Ciavarella and forwarded it to prosecutors, an action which precipitated the investigation.  This is how good judges protect us from the few bad ones.  In this case the system worked.

While Judge Panella was doing this his opponent for Supreme Court was out speaking to Tea Baggers.  Joan Orie Melvin, being widely accused by many of ethical misconduct on the campaign trail, addressed radical fringe protesters in Lehighton.  I have received several reports of people at closed door meetings with Judge Melvin saying she is openly offering to fix upcoming cases in return for key endorsements.  How this is much different from what Conahan and Ciavarella did is vague.  Either way judges are for sale.  The big trouble with corrupt judges is that someone else may come along with a better offer and ruin your fix.

Now storm clouds are circling over another Luzerne County Judge.  This time it is Judge Joeseph Musto whose son got an ARD after being charged with drug possession, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.  The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program is supposed to only be for first time offenders but young Joseph Musto doesn’t qualify due to a previous record.  Oops…

While the issue of ethics and integrity is central to this year’s appellate court elections Judge Melvin is out talking to tea baggers and promising to fix cases while Jack Panella is running an open, honest campaign after a distinguished career watching over evil doers and bad Judges.