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Politics & Government

Testimony: Staffers Handled Orie Melvin's 2003 Campaign

In the corruption trial of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, the defendant's former judicial staffers testified on Monday that they worked on her political campaigns while on the state's clock.

Two of Melvin's former law clerks testified that they helped Melvin run her unsuccessful campaign for the state Supreme Court in 2003.

Law clerk Molly Creenan and chief law clerk Lisa Sasinoski said they wrote material for speeches and campaign stops. Sasinoski said she also handed out pro-Melvin cards at a Penn Hills polling place on election day in 2003.

"I thought at the time it was a test of loyalty," said Sasinoski. "If you're really loyal, you'll stand [at the polling place] from 7:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night."

According to Sasinoski, "there was a blur" between judicial work time and campaign time.

Both former employees said they felt their jobs would be in jeopardy if they refused to do campaign work.

"I knew that if you didn't keep them happy, they wouldn't be happy, and you wouldn't be around very long," said Sasinoski.

Sasinoski said all of Melvin's other employees did similar work for her first Supreme Court race, including compiling a list of campaign contributors.

Sasinoski characterized Melvin's judicial chamber as the main office of the campaign. She called Melvin's sister and staffer, Janine Orie, the "campaign manager."

Melvin is charged with several counts regarding the alleged illegal use of taxpayer-funded staff in political campaigns in 2003 and 2009. The state Supreme Court Justice was placed on judicial leave in May after an Allegheny County grand jury recommended the state pursue charges against her.