A resolution was adopted by the Schuylkill County Commissioners at their work session Wednesday to execute an option provided by the state legislature and abolished the elected office of jury commissioners.
The current jury commissioners, Peggy Zimmerman, Walker Township, Republican, and Ed Kleha, Shenandoah, Democrat, will be permitted to finish their term of office which ends Dec. 30, 2013. They ran for office in 2009 and were elected for the term from 2010 through 2013. Fiscal Administrator Mark Scarbinsky said the county would be saving $26,000 annually in salaries plus health benefits.
The duty of the jury commissioners was to obtain names of people willing to serve as jurors for civil and criminal terms. In the past they had a very important duty in what was referred to as filling the "wheel" once a year. The court would hand down an order as to how many prospective jurors it would need for the court terms and the jury commissioners supervised obtaining the names.
But like many things their job became obsolete when automation took over in the county about 25 years ago. Names of prospective jurors were selected from PennDOT's vast list of persons holding driver's licenses and this allowed a more diversified group of juror selections. Under the old system the same names were put back into the "wheel" and some became known as "professional jurors."
The state legislature passed House Bill 1644 into law as Act 108 and Governor Tom Corbett signed it on Dec. 15, 2011. Act 108 allows the governing body of a county of the Second Class A through eight class to adopt, by majority vote, a resolution abolishing the Office of Jury Commissioner.
The vote was unanimous by the three Schuylkill County Commissioners, Frank Staudenmeier, George Halcovage and Gary J. Hess.