Politically Ruined Orie Sisters 0 for 2 at Third Circuit

This combination photo shows former Pennsylvania state senator Jane Orie, right, from Feb. 29, 2012; her sister, former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, center, from May 18, 2012; and their sister, Janine Orie, left, from April 7, 2010. (Photos by Keith Srakocic & Gene Puskar, AP)

PHILADELPHIA (CN) — The sister of a former Pennsylvania state senator and a state Supreme Court justice who were all convicted on corruption charges is not entitled to habeas relief, the Third Circuit ruled Wednesday. 

The case started in 2010 after an intern working for then-Senator Jane Orie complained that the staff was working on a campaign for Orie’s sister Joan Orie Melvin to get seat as a justice on the state Supreme Court.

Jane, Joan and a third sister, Janine Orie, who worked as a secretary for Melvin, were all charged with theft of services and conspiracy. 

After Melvin’s introduction of forged documents into evidence caused a mistrial, all three sisters were convicted. The sisters each appealed to the Third Circuit, appearing for oral arguments together in June. 

Wednesday’s ruling focuses on Janine, who got off the lightest of the sisters at sentencing with just one year of probation and home confinement.  

Writing for the three-judge panel, U.S. Circuit Judge Kent Jordan said that is exactly why Orie is not entitled to relief, pointing out that she challenged only the 2010 charges against her that were dismissed in 2011 when new corruption charges were added. 

The 18-page opinion further adds that Janine is not entitled to habeas relief since she was never actually in custody for the convictions. 

“The fact that Janine’s sentences may have been related and all her charges were litigated in the same proceedings does not establish that she was ever in custody for the convictions on the 2010 charges,” said Jordan, a George W. Bush appointee. 

The ruling also addresses Janine’s failure to timely object to a federal magistrate’s recommendation that habeas law does not cover the “overall neglect” alleged of Janine’s counsel.

“Though couched in terms of excusable neglect, Janine’s plea that we ignore her attorney’s (and hence her) failure to timely respond to the R&R is exactly the kind of relief foreclosed by the statute itself,” the ruling states, using an abbreviation for the magistrate’s report and recommendation. 

Janine plans to keep fighting. “We do not agree with the Third Circuit’s opinion and judgment,” her attorney, James DePasquale, said in an email. “We intend to seek reconsideration.”

A spokesman for Allegheny County declined to comment.

Judge Jordan was joined on the panel by U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Matey and U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas.

Wednesday’s ruling comes weeks after the Third Circuit denied relief to Jane, the former senator who represented Pennsylvania’s 40th District, finding that a mistrial and retrial did not amount to double jeopardy.

Joan’s appeal remains pending.

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