Archive for the 'Judicial misconduct' Category
A trial court judge ordered on Friday that the entire criminal sentencing of ex-Justice Joan Orie Melvin (photo) of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court be stayed, at least until a higher court reaches a decision on her appeal.
Last week, a three-judge panel of the state Superior Court agreed with a request by Orie Melvin’s lawyers and stayed a part of her sentencing that directed her to write apologies to former colleagues on photographs of her wearing handcuffs (see Gavel Grab).
On Friday, Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Lester G. Nauhaus ordered the temporary lifting of her house arrest and probation, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“She’s not serving my sentence! And the problem I have with that is she’s banking credit for time served and I will not allow it!” Judge Nauhaus declared.
Orie Melvin was sentenced to three years in house arrest and a $55,000 fine. She was convicted by a jury of corruption in campaigns for the state’s highest court.
Ex-Justice Joan Orie Melvin of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will not be required as part of her sentencing on public corruption counts to write apologies to former colleagues on photographs of her wearing handcuffs — at least for now.
A three-judge panel of the state Superior Court has agreed with a request by Orie Melvin’s lawyers to stay that portion of her sentencing pending the outcome of her direct appeal, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.
“While the requirement that she write apology letters does not involve potentially incriminating testimony in a courtroom, it nevertheless creates evidence that could possibly be used against her in a later criminal proceeding,” Judge Christine L. Donohue wrote in the opinion.
Orie Melvin was sentenced to three years in house arrest and a $55,000 fine. She was convicted by a jury of corruption in campaigns for the state’s highest court. You can learn more about her challenge to the apology directive from Gavel Grab.
When ex-Justice Joan Orie Melvin (photo) of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was sentenced on public corruption counts in May, she was ordered to write apologies to her fellow former jurists. But Orie Melvin has challenged that order on legal grounds, and it has become a point of contention.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Orie Melvin contends she is innocent and writing the apologies would violate her privilege against self-incrimination. But the prosecutor in the case disagrees and says that if the apology directive is stayed pending her appeal, her entire sentence and the absence of any prison term must be reconsidered.
In a filing with the state Superior Court, deputy district attorney Michael W. Streily said, “It will be the commonwealth’s position herein that if this court stays the apology letter, then [the trial judge] should be given the opportunity to stay the entire sentence, should he choose to do so, because it may be that without the rehabilitative benefit of an apology letter, appellant can only be rehabilitated by incarceration in a state prison.” Read more
The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline barred Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Nocella of Philadelphia from ever serving again on the bench. It found he committed judicial ethics violations by making misrepresentations to a bar association when he was a candidate and through past involvement with a political action committee.
Nocella was an elected judge. Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, found his sentence fair, according to a Pennsylvania Independent article.
“Removing Nocella from the bench and barring him from future judicial service sends an important message to the public and to the judiciary that the judicial discipline system ensures that our judges are held to the highest standards,” she said. “It also warns would-be judges that not only should they never lie about their qualifications during a campaign, but that there are serious consequences, including removal, for lying one’s way to the bench.” Read more
There is a new final order in the investigation into the conduct of then-U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull of Montana, who forwarded a racist and sexist email about President Obama from his courthouse computer (see Gavel Grab) and who retired in May. Like a previous order in the matter, this one is not public, but it may be made public later.
The Judicial Council of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals met June 28, and Chief Judge Alex Kozinski subsequently announced a new order issued in the complaint, according to a Great Falls Tribune article. ”If no appeal of the order is made, the order will be made public after the 63 days is up,” the newspaper reported.
The return to the bench of a local Pennsylvania judge, who pleaded guilty in connection with the fixing of her own traffic tickets, has drawn questioning in some quarters.
The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline ruled that Lancaster District Judge Kelly S. Ballentine would be allowed to return to the bench after 16 months of suspension. The state Board of Judicial Conduct had petitioned the discipline court to permanently remove Judge Ballentine from her position (see Gavel Grab).
“It gives new meaning to the concept of justice being blind,” said a Lancaster New Era opinion.
“The actions of Judge Ballentine are unacceptable. Although we appreciate that she took responsibility for her actions, judges should be held to a higher standard because they sit in judgment of others,” said Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a court-reform organization and JAS partner group. A Lancaster Online article reported her views. Read more
Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway was sentenced on Tuesday to 366 days in prison. She had pleaded guilty earlier to committing bank fraud by concealing holdings in the short sale of a home.
“I stand before you a broken person,” she told U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara. “I am ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated and disgraced,” she said, according to an Associated Press report.
“We do not ask you to sentence Diane Hathaway based on who she is,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Lemisch told the court. “We ask you to sentence Diane Hathaway based on what she did.”
Her defense attorney, Steve Fishman, had argued that losing her prominent job was severe enough punishment for Hathaway. The former judge is depicted above, with her husband, in an Associated Press photo taken Jan. 29.
After she was sentenced last week to serve three years’ house arrest, former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin went to a resentencing hearing this week so the judge could fix a potential technical error.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Allegheny County Judge Lester Nauhaus made sure to state that Melvin is ordered to serve three, one-year terms of house arrest consecutively, instead of one, three-year period.
Melvin will also have to pay roughly $128,000 from her pension fund to cover fines and legal fees. The article says part of the money from her pension will go to her sister, Janine Orie, who was also convicted on corruption charges. Read more
The findings of an investigation into the conduct of then-Judge Richard Cebull, who forwarded a racist and sexist email about President Obama from his courthouse computer (see Gavel Grab) and who retired this month, remain secret.
An Associated Press article said a Judicial Council order issued in the investigation on March 15 is moot, given the U.S. District judge’s retirement on May 3, according to a new order by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Judicial Council has released neither the order nor the findings of its investigation. When the the Judicial Council meets June 28, it will consider revisions to the order and the memorandum, and it was uncertain whether they would ultimately be made public, the AP said.
Judge Cebull sat in Montana. He apologized to the president after the email was made public.
The judge who sentenced ex-Justice Joan Orie Melvin of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week has set a resentencing hearing for Tuesday, but he signaled it will deal only with a legal technicality.
Common Pleas Court Judge Lester Nauhaus said he will sentence Orie Melvin to three consecutive one-year terms of house arrest, as opposed to three years of house arrest, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. “There is absolutely no difference in those sentences,” he said. “It is absolutely form over substance.”
The ex-justice was convicted of corruption in the conduct of her two campaigns for the high court. This week, her sentence included an order to have her photograph taken in handcuffs, and sign copies with apologies to all her former fellow judges. There was controversy over her sentencing (see Gavel Grab).