Statement of Pennsylvania Bar Association on the Verdict in the Criminal Trial of Suspended Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin

HARRISBURG (Feb. 21, 2013) - The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) today issued the following statement on the verdict in the criminal trial of suspended Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin:

"The Justice Orie Melvin verdict represents a sad chapter in the history of Pennsylvania's justice system," said PBA President Thomas G. Wilkinson.

"As lawyers, we have a responsibility to do all we possibly can to help preserve the integrity of the justice system and restore public confidence in our judiciary. The many distinguished and honorable judges in Pennsylvania deserve nothing less. An independent and impartial judiciary is a cornerstone of our system of justice, and public confidence in the judiciary is undermined when judges engage in high profile misconduct, such as by directing their law clerks and staff to perform political campaign work when they should be doing the important business of the court.

"For more than 65 years, the PBA has been on record in favor of an appointive system for state appellate court judges. The selection and appointment of judges should be based on experience and performance and not on ballot position, political party or effectiveness in campaign fundraising. A merit-based, appointive system of selecting appellate judges would help to get judicial candidates out of the business of campaign fundraising and politicking.

"We are hopeful that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania will soon return to its full complement of seven justices."

Editor's Note: Upon taking office, PBA President Wilkinson appointed a Task Force on the Code of Judicial Conduct to make recommendations to amend the outdated canons governing the conduct of state court judges. The task force will propose amendments to the code of conduct that will provide greater guidance for judges in such areas as the disclosure of judicial campaign contributions, recusal and disqualification standards and the employment of family members in judicial chambers. The task force anticipates presenting its recommendations for consideration by the PBA House of Delegates at its May 10, 2013 meeting in Pittsburgh.

Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association exists to promote justice, professional excellence and respect of the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access to legal services; and serve the 28,000 lawyers who are members of the association.