A preliminary hearing got under way this morning in the political corruption case of state Sen. Jane Orie and her sister Janine Orie while a lawyer for a third Orie sister -- state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin -- watched from the gallery.
Jane and Janine Orie are accused of using state Senate employees and resources to assist the 2009 state Supreme Court campaign of Justice Melvin. The hearing is before Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel.
An Allegheny County grand jury is continuing the investigation to determine whether the justice engaged in any improper conduct in connection with the case. Janine Orie worked as the justice's assistant.
Prosecutors expect to present evidence from Jane Orie's chief of staff, Jamie Pavlot, who told a grand jury that widespread partisan campaign work took place in the senator's office throughout last year.
Representing Jane Orie is Harrisburg lawyer William C. Costopoulos while Pittsburgh attorney James DiPasquale is representing Janine Orie.
J. Alan Johnson, a former U.S. attorney and now a defense lawyer, said he was on hand to observe on behalf of Justice Melvin.
The preliminary hearing is expected to take at least two days.