2008-10-02 / Local & State

Pa. Court Says Judge Can't Refuse Her Pay Raise

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's highest court has ruled that an appellate court judge cannot refuse her 11 percent pay raise.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that said Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin cannot legally reject the salary increase. The court issued a one-sentence order but did not release an opinion explaining its decision.

The raise was part of a legislative pay hike enacted in July 2005, but repealed

November 2005, after public criticism. The Supreme Court reinstated

the raises for 1,100 state judges in September 2006.

Melvin's annual salary increased from $145,658 to $162,100.

Commonwealth Court ruled against Melvin in February 2007 and has said she can donate her raise to charity.

Melvin's attorney, her brother Jack Orie, said he was disappointed that the Supreme Court issued a ruling without hearing arguments in the case. He said he would have to consult with Melvin before deciding whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Melvin has been paying money to the state's general fund, but she must also pay federal income taxes on her raise, Orie said.

"The federal government is getting about $7,000 ... of Pennsylvania's money,'' he said.

The Supreme Court said in its decision on the raise repeal that the Legislature could rescind it for legislators and executives, but lawmakers violated the state constitution when they tried to reduce the judges' pay, too.

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