Apr 09 2010
In Allegheny County this week, a grand jury returned a presentment against Senator Jane Orie and her sister Janine Orie, a member of Justice Joan Orie Melvin’s staff, for violations of laws regarding political activity by state employees on taxpayer-funded time.
At issue is an allegedly almost decade-long use of Senator Orie’s legislative staff for political work related to the Senator’s own political campaigns as well as those of her sister, Justice Orie Melvin. Particular focus has been paid to the alleged use of the legislative staffers for Justice Orie Melvin’s 2009 successful campaign for the Supreme Court.
Senator Orie and Janine Orie were arraigned on Wednesday of this week. Now the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that a second grand jury is being convened to continue the investigation. Jack Orie, brother and lawyer to Jane and Janine Orie, believes this new grand jury may be targeting sister Justice Orie Melvin.
There are allegations that the entire investigation is politically motivated. The District Attorney pursuing the investigation, Stephen A. Zappala, Jr., is the son of former Chief Justice Stephen Zappala. The Ories contend that Zappala is targeting Senator Orie because of her opposition to legalized gaming, an industry to which Zappala’s father and sister are tied.
The investigation brings a cloud over two branches of government. And the allegations about the judicial campaigns highlight the dangers in using an inherently political process — elections — to select officials who are supposed to be different from those who serve in the political branches. We don’t want our judges or judicial candidates put in the position of having to make tough calls about the ethical rules governing their campaign conduct and that of their employees.Tags: District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Jack Orie, Janine Orie, judicial elections, Justice Joan Orie Melvin, Senator Jane Orie, Supreme Court