Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice resigns after corruption conviction

[JURIST] Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin tendered her resignation to Governor Tom Corbett [official profile] on Monday. Melvin and her sister were convicted [JURIST report] in February of corruption for misusing state-paid staffers to do campaign work to aid Melvin in winning a seat on the bench. Pennsylvania Bar Association [website] president Thomas Wilkinson commented [press release] on the resignation:

As lawyers, we have a responsibility to do all we possibly can to help preserve the integrity of the justice system and maintain public confidence in our judiciary. The many distinguished, hardworking and honorable judges in Pennsylvania deserve nothing less. An independent and impartial judiciary is a cornerstone of our system of justice, and public confidence in the judiciary is undermined when judges engage in criminal or other serious misconduct such as the crimes for which Justice Orie Melvin was charged and convicted.
The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas [official website] is scheduled to sentence Melvin on May 7. The vacancy left by Melvin will need to be filled [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report] by an interim justice, nominated by Corbett with confirmation by two-thirds of the state senate. The interim justice's confirmation is typically conditioned on the caveat that he or she will not run in 2015 election to fill the vacancy.

Judicial corruption is a threat worldwide. In January retired Michigan Supreme Court justice Diane Hathaway pleaded guilty to felony bank fraud [JURIST report]. The charges arose from Hathaway deeding her home in Florida to a relative while negotiating a short sale on the home, resulting in a $600,000 debt they owed to their bank being erased. In October the UN called on nations around the world to do more to combat judicial corruption [JURIST report], stating that it is a human rights issue because it can deprive people of their due process rights. It also said keeping the judiciary free from corruption is critical to "strengthen judicial credibility and independence."

 

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