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Melvin asks colleagues to ditch trial

Published by Tim McNulty on .

From Paula Reed Ward at the main site:

Attorneys for suspended state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin have asked her colleagues on the court to halt her upcoming trial.

Justice Orie Melvin filed a petition for King's Bench review on Monday, asking the remaining six jurists on the high court to throw out the charges against her, which include theft of services, misapplication of entrusted property, official oppression and conspiracy to tamper with evidence.

The petition reiterates the defense position that criminal prosecution for violating a court policy that prohibits political activity is unconstitutional.

It is an argument the justice's attorneys have made before to Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus, which he rejected last month.

"Immediate action by this court is necessary to enforce the separation of powers and compel the dismissal of the constitutionally impermissible charges," the defense wrote in its 16-page filing.

The petition goes on to say that Justice Orie Melvin's case is one of "broad and lasting implication" that could lead to the inspection, investigation and criminal prosecution of "every judicial chambers in the commonwealth.

"There is no doubt that the District Attorney's misuse of the police power is an issue of immediate public importance justifying exercise of this court's extraordinary jurisdiction."

The district attorney's office had no comment. In the past, prosecutors have argued that Justice Orie Melvin is not charged for purely political activity but for using state resources -- including her own employees -- to run for the high court in 2003 and 2009.

Jury selection for her trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 23.

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