Can A Court Really “Shame” Justice Joan Orie Melvin?

For her various crimes of political corruption, State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has been handed sort of an odd sentence. Three years house arrest, then two years probation. OK, no jail time, but seems pretty routine. Now here’s the weird part. The Allegheny County judge who conjured up the penalty wants her to inscribe hand-written apologies on 500 copies of a photograph of herself, which will then be sent to Pennsylvania jurists. I.e., she’s being shamed.

Here’s the photograph, taken after the sentencing hearing. Note the handcuffs, which the judge ordered she wear.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quizzed some shaming experts (yes), one of whom didn’t think the sentence passed constitutional muster.

Even when you are convicted of a crime, you retain your Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination,” said Jules Epstein, a criminal law professor at Widener University. “You can’t be punished for refusing to exercise it.” This matters because Orie Melvin has maintained that she is innocent and says she plans to appeal the decision.

Another shame scholar, meanwhile, just thinks the whole thing is too psychologically cruel. “Shame is so disturbing and disruptive, and invariably, it causes psychic harm,” he said. Which is probably what the judge was going for… [Post-Gazette]