Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts called for swift action in light of a published report that Justice Joan Orie Melvin of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has gotten formal notice that she is a target of a grand jury in Allegheny County.
PMC urged in a statement that Justice Orie Melvin temporarily step down from the court, and if she declines, it called on the Supreme Court to temporarily suspend her. A Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article reported the grand jury activity; two of her sisters are accused of using state-paid staff to do campaign work for the judge (see Gavel Grab).
“All citizens, including judges are presumed innocent until proven guilty, but judges and especially supreme court justices should not be permitted to judge others while under the cloud of such a serious investigation,” said Lynn Marks, executive director of the reform group. It is a JAS partner.
PMC also called the grand jury investigation an indictment of the judicial election system and urged legislators to amend the constitution to end the election of appellate judges.
“Judicial elections require candidates to campaign, politick, and fundraise, eliminating the distinction between them and politicians. … We need a system that is designed to get the most qualified, fair and impartial judges on the bench,” said PMC Deputy Director Shira J. Goodman.