Much like the indomitable Esther Smith, there is plenty out there that I hate, loathe, despise, and abominate. At the top of the list right now (because #1 will always and forever be Buffalo Winters, ugh) is whoever swiped Mark Twain’s cemetery plaque. (Sidebar: whoever you are, give it back!) Back in the day, before I knew that lake effect snow and thundersnow were actual things and people let Samuel Clemens rest in peace, the #1 on thing on the list was writing the dreaded thank you note. Thank you notes took all the fun out of getting presents. Much like how wishing someone a happy birthday doesn’t count until one does it on Facebook, one hasn’t really thanked a person until one has drafted a note doing so. It was agony because that thank you note couldn’t just say “thanks” and be done with it. Oh no. It had to be personalized and it had to mean it.
Somehow—and I’m really not sure how, so much thanks to the Legal Skills Prof Blog for its post—I missed out on the saga of one Joan Orie Melvin. Former state Supreme Court Justice Melvin was busted for using state staffers to campaign for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009. (She wasn’t successful in 2003, but won the election in 2009.) Melvin wasn’t the only one facing the music—it was a family affair with her two sisters also punished for participating, with one serving 2 ½ years in prison while the other was under house arrest for a year. When she was convicted in 2013, Melvin was facing three years of house arrest, two years of probation, working in a soup kitchen three days a week, and—wait for it—writing letters of apology to around 600 judges and former staffers. Those letters had to be “personalized and written by her” although there was no specification that they had to be hand written. Oh and did I mention that those letters were initially supposed to be written “on pictures of herself in handcuffs”? (After an appeal, the Superior Court decided that the letters didn’t have to be on the pictures after all.) Dramatic right? But wait, there’s more.
In December 2014, The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s Attorney Newsletter retracted an earlier report that stated Melvin had completed her letters. Turns out that Melvin’s efforts weren’t “satisfactory” and had to be redone. (Apparently the letters “all had a generic salutation to “members of the Pennsylvania Judiciary” [and] looked as though they came off a copier….”) Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus also added, “The attempt to have the defendant have any kind of humility has failed.” Much like how my younger self had to turn over any thank you drafts to a higher authority (my mother), Melvin will have to show hers to Judge Nauhaus before they can be sent and her sentence completed. Way harsh.