Jane Orie

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Jane Clare Orie
Member of the Pennsylvania Senate
from the 40th district
In office
April 3, 2001 – May 21, 2012
Preceded byMelissa Hart
Succeeded byRandy Vulakovich
ConstituencyParts of Allegheny and Butler Counties
Republican Whip
of the Pennsylvania Senate
In office
January 2, 2007 – April 7, 2010
Preceded byJeff Piccola
Succeeded byPat Browne
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 28th district
In office
January 7, 1997[1] – April 3, 2001[2]
Preceded byElaine Farmer
Succeeded byMike Turzai
ConstituencyPart of Allegheny County
Personal details
Born (1961-09-18) September 18, 1961 (age 58)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Political partyRepublican
ResidenceMcCandless Township, Pennsylvania

Jane Clare Orie (born September 18, 1961) is an American former politician, and member of the Republican Party, who served in both Houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. While in the State Senate, she represented the 40th district, including portions of Allegheny County and Butler County, and served as the Majority Whip. Orie is also a former member of the State House, where she represented the 28th district. She resigned from the State Senate in May 2012, following her conviction on 14 counts of forgery, conflict of interest and theft of services, and served the minimum two-and-a half years of a two-and-a-half to ten-year prison sentence.[3] She was disbarred by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on December 10, 2014.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Orie was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to a western Pennsylvania political family. Her sister Joan Orie Melvin was a judge on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and is now suspended from her position as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Jane Orie earned her B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College in 1984 and her J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in 1987. Prior to elective office, Orie served as an assistant district attorney in Allegheny County and later as a deputy state attorney general.


In 1996, Orie ran for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 28th House District after incumbent representative Elaine Farmer dropped off the ballot to fight bone marrow cancer.[5] Orie won that November and won re-election in 1998 and 2000.[6]

In 2000, State Senator Melissa Hart was elected to the United States House of Representatives and resigned her Senate seat. In a special election Orie was the GOP nominee against Democrat James Rooney, a grandson of late Pittsburgh Steelers owner, Art Rooney. A key issue in that race was public funding for the new Steelers stadium, Heinz Field, which was unpopular in parts of the county. Orie tried to tie Rooney to this unpopular issue, even running a television advertisement depicting the implosion of Three Rivers Stadium.[7] Orie defeated Rooney with 59% in the election on March 11, 2001, and was seated on April 3, 2001. Orie won re-election in 2002 and 2006, both times taking more than 70% against minimal opposition.[8][9]

In May 2006, Bob Jubelirer and Chip Brightbill, the Republicans' two top leaders were defeated in the primary election, victims of the legislative pay raise fallout. Jeff Piccola left his post as whip to run for President Pro Tempore. This opened the door for Orie, who defeated John Gordner for the position.[10]

Allegations of impropriety[edit]

Authorities seized thousands of computer records from one of Orie's district offices in mid-December 2009, as part of an investigation conducted by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala. Zappala would not disclose to the public a reason for investigating Orie.[1]

A story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette alleged that the core of the investigation involves the employment of one of her district offices for campaign purposes.[2]

The Post-Gazette subsequently reported that a University of Pittsburgh student intern had told prosecutors of widespread political campaigning inside the office on behalf of Orie's sister, State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin. The story also revealed that Orie's chief of staff had begun cooperating with investigators.[3] Justice Melvin was indicted and convicted on charges of misusing publicly funded staff for political work on her two Supreme Court races.[11]

Criminal prosecution and fallout[edit]

In April 2010, an Allegheny County grand jury indicted Jane Orie and her sister Janine Orie on multiple charges of corruption. Pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 19, both defendants were released on their own recognizance, but they were prohibited from having non-business contacts with any of the witnesses in the case.[4] Under Senate rules, a member who is charged with an offense related to his or her official duties must vacate any leadership position. Accordingly, following her indictment, Orie resigned as minority whip.[12]

A trial date of February 7, 2011 was set for the criminal trial of Orie and her sister Janine. [5] However, while jury deliberations were underway, Judge Jeffrey Manning declared a mistrial for both the Senator and her sister upon learning that evidence submitted by the defense had been doctored. The signature of former Orie aide Jamie Pavlot, a key prosecution witness, appeared to have been cut-and-pasted from one document to another. Manning suspended the jury deliberations, declaring that the copying was so blatant that "Ray Charles could see that signature was doctored." Hours later, he declared a mistrial and dismissed the jury, saying that "a fraud had been perpetrated" on the court.[13] A new trial date was set for April 11, although Orie's lawyer announced his intent to appeal the decision on the grounds that a new trial would constitute a violation of Orie's right to avoid double jeopardy.[14]

In March 2012, Orie was convicted of 14 counts of forgery, conflict of interest and theft of services, which included 5 felonies.[15] [6]

Like most states, Pennsylvania has a provision in its constitution barring convicted felons from holding office. Accordingly, she resigned from the State Senate on May 21, 2012.[16] A special election occurred on August 7, 2012, to replace her;[17] the Republican nominee in the race was State Representative Randy Vulakovich, while Democratic nominee was Sharon Brown, a health care consultant.[18] Vulakovich defeated Brown by a wide margin.[19]

On June 5, 2012, Orie was sentenced to two-and-a-half to ten years in prison. In sentencing her, Judge Manning said he was particularly angered by Orie's submission of fraudulent documents, calling it a "flagrant and disgraceful violation" of her oath as an attorney and a violation of "the sanctity of all we do as lawyers." Manning remanded Orie to custody immediately rather than allow her to self-report.[20] She was incarcerated at the Cambridge Springs State Correctional Institution in Crawford County, where she was Inmate Number OS9360.[21]

On February 9, 2014, Orie was released from prison, after serving the minimum sentence of two-and-a-half years.[3]


  1. ^ "SESSION OF 1997 - 181ST OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY - No. 1" (PDF). Legislative Journal. Pennsylvania House of Representatives. January 7, 1997.
  2. ^ Cox, Harold (November 3, 2004). "Pennsylvania House of Representatives - 2001-2002" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University.
  3. ^ a b "Former state Sen. Jane Orie released from prison". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. February 9, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
  4. ^ Former state Sen. Jane Orie disbarred Jason Cato; The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review December 10, 2014
  5. ^ Mackenzie Carpenter (August 17, 2003). "The Orie sisters steal the show". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  6. ^ "Jane C. Orie (Republican)". Official Pennsylvania House of Representatives Profile. Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Archived from the original on January 25, 2000.
  7. ^ Brian O'Neill (April 1, 2001). "Don't fault Tom Murphy for stadium deals". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  8. ^ 2002 General Election Results, Pennsylvania Department of State, 11/5/02 Archived 2008-05-15 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ 2006 General Election Results, Pennsylvania Department of State, 11/8/06 Archived 2008-05-29 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Tom Barnes (November 21, 2006). "Sen. Orie wins leadership post". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  11. ^ Mandak, Joe (June 28, 2012). "Judge nixes Melvin motion to recuse county bench". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  12. ^ "Pennsylvania Senator Jane Orie charged with theft of service, resigns from leadership post". PennLive.com. The Harrisburg Patriot-News. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
  13. ^ O'Toole, James; Barcousky, Len (March 3, 2011). "Mistrial declared in Orie case". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  14. ^ O'Toole, James (March 4, 2011). "New trial date set for Orie". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  15. ^ http://www.suntimes.com, March 26, 2012, "Pa. GOP Senator Jane orie convicted of theft of services" by the AP
  16. ^ May 22, 2012, "Convicted Pa. Senator Orie Sumits Resignation"
  17. ^ "Cawley sets Aug. 7 date for special election for Orie's seat". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  18. ^ "Vulakovich picked for state Senate run". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  19. ^ McNulty, Timothy (August 7, 2012). "Vulakovich defeats Brown for Orie's seat". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
  20. ^ June 5th 2012, "Orie sent to prison"
  21. ^ "Inmate Locator". Inmate Database. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on September 11, 2012. Retrieved July 25, 2012.

External links[edit]

Pennsylvania State Senate
Preceded by
Melissa Hart
Member of the Pennsylvania Senate for the 40th District
Succeeded by
Randy Vulakovich
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Preceded by
Elaine Farmer
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 28th District
Succeeded by
Mike Turzai
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jeff Piccola
Republican Whip of the Pennsylvania Senate
Succeeded by
Pat Browne