Sept. 15, 2009 Contact: Renita Fennick
For Immediate Release (570) 208-4671
LUZERNE COUNTY GOP LAUNCHES "OPERATION H.E.A.R.T."
WILKES-BARRE – In the wake of corruption scandals involving Democrat government officials in the county, the Luzerne County Republican Committee announced the launch of "Operation H.E.A.R.T.," a new initiative that will highlight candidates who possess a shared commitment to honesty, ethics, accountability, reform, and transparency, at a press conference hosted at the new headquarters in Wilkes-Barre.
"Today, the people of Luzerne County are standing up and fighting back against the corruption and selfishness that has tragically pervaded our government," Chairman Casey said. "Operation H.E.A.R.T. is a chance for our community to come together and support candidates who are committed to serving the people of Luzerne County before themselves. It’s time for Luzerne County to get a HEART transplant!"
Headlining the list of speakers for the event was Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidate Judge Joan Orie Melvin, who has demonstrated a strong commitment to judicial restraint and reform during her 23 years of judicial service.
"As a 23-year veteran of the bench, I am a strong opponent of the type of corrupt and wasteful government that this county has recently fallen victim to," said Judge Orie Melvin. "I am honored to be a part of such a momentous occasion for the Luzerne County Republican Committee. The "Operation H.E.A.R.T." campaign will help Luzerne County to move forward, and usher in a new era of honesty, ethics, accountability, reform and transparency in government!"
Also on hand to speak at today’s press conference were Court of Common Pleas candidate Richard Hughes; and Controller candidate Walter Griffith. Remarks were made on behalf of Prothonotary candidate Carolee Medico Olenginski, and Register of Wills/Clerk of the Orphan’s Court candidate Gina Nevenglosky who did not attend because of prior commitments.
Editor's note: Here, here!
Judicial Candidate Joan Orie Melvin's comments:
It’s an honor to be here today at the beginning of such an important movement in Luzerne County.
I came here today not just as a candidate for the Supreme Court, but as a citizen who is standing with her fellow Pennsylvanians against the culture of corruption that has taken place in this county.
The most egregious case of judicial corruption and judicial abuse of power in our nation’s history actually occurred here in Pennsylvania, in Luzerne County.
The judiciary violated these children. Within 5 minutes of being sworn in, they were escorted out in shackles to these personal profitable lock-ups. This is surreal. It is right out of a Charles Dickens’ novel.
I’ve been a judge for 24 years; uniquely serving at all levels of the judiciary. I began my judicial career in Pittsburgh’s Municipal Courts where I served as the Chief Magistrate Judge. There, we had many juveniles convicted of non-violent crimes. In my courtroom, these children and their parents were always treated with respect. I knew these children did not belong in juvenile detention centers, and if they were fined, it was the moms and dads reaching into their wallets to pay for their children’s wrongdoings. I wanted to make these children aware that as individuals they are responsible for the consequences of their own acts. As Chief Judge, I was innovative and created the first juvenile community service program. I had these kids clean up city parks, work in soup kitchens and emergency rooms. Every juvenile sentenced to my community service program successfully completed their service. I instilled accountability in these juveniles. Many of these teens wrote to me and thanked me for putting them back on the write track.
I have served also as a Common Pleas trial judge and currently, I’m in my 12th year on the Superior Court. I’m proud to say that I’m judge who remains in touch with her community. Throughout my judicial career, I’ve been actively involved in educating students about the judiciary. My most recent education program deals with education students and various parents’ groups about the civil and criminal consequences of internet usage including content on social networking sites, YouTube videos, and pictures transmitted by cell phone. Many students are unaware of these consequences as well as the implications down the road for college and job opportunities. I am a judge who has the pulse of Pennsylvania. As a judge and mother of six, I care very deeply about our future and I will always serve the people with dignity.
That’s why Operation HEART is so special.
Are all of the principles that I strive to represent and embody.
We just found out that a detailed complaint was filed against the 2 former Luzerne County judges with the Judicial Conduct Board back in 2006. This means there were numerous allegations before the Judicial Conduct Board years before the government formally accused the judges of crimes. This complaint covered the entire scandal on the widespread corruption: case fixing, mob ties, and illegal placement of juveniles in a privately owned Juvenile Detention Center. What did the Judicial Conduct Board do with the complaint? Were there other complaints filed with the Judicial Conduct Board in the five years? Where are all the complaints from all the moms and dads whose children were wrongfully whisked away into those detention centers? What about the complaints from law enforcement agents present in those courtrooms? What about the complaints from legal professionals present in those courtrooms? These were serious allegations in the complaint filed with the Judicial Conduct Board and they warranted a prompt investigation by the Judicial Conduct Board. The public has a right to know what the Judicial Conduct Board did or did not do in the Luzerne County debacle. We need to find out how and why this went horribly astray.
All of these accounts of judicial corruption caused the public to lose trust and confidence in the courts. On the Supreme Court, I would advocate for annual mandatory judicial ethics courses for all judges. I want to educate the public about their rights to file complaints against unethical judicial conduct. On the Supreme Court, I would roll up my sleeves to earn back the public’s trust.
Operation HEART is about moving this county toward a brighter future. It’s about healing the heart of the community which has been shaken to its core and realize its strengths once again.
It’s about seeing a problem within one’s community and standing up to change it. I did something similar when I developed the first Domestic Violence Court in Pennsylvania to deal with a special problem that was destroying families. It’s about commonsense government that led me to fight against the infamous 2005 pay raise. Because it was a moral conviction, I have paid back the pay raise to the treasury every year since 2005. I believe judges are public servants. It’s about empowering the voters of this county to move past the events that have dominated the past year and begin to heal its wounds.
We have a critical election that is going to take place just 49 days from now on November 3rd. Electing experienced judges of the highest character to the state and county level is critical for administration of justice.
In addition to my 24 years of judicial experience, I am a wife and a mom who has a firm understanding about the issues that are affecting hardworking families of this Commonwealth. For my entire 24 years as a judge, I have lived all of the values of Operation HEART and I will continue to take those values of honest, ethics, accountability, reform, and transparency with me to the Supreme Court.
I congratulate Chairman Terry Casey and the Luzerne County Republican Committee for their efforts and look forward to the future success of Operation HEART. I promise to do my part and campaign with "HEART" everywhere I go.
Thank you and God bless you.