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Senate approves legislation to abolish jury commissioners

Published April 25. 2013 05:04PM

Proposed legislation that would allow county commissioners to abolish the office of jury commissioner was approved Wednesday by the state senate, and is on its way to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

The legislation, SB 808, passed the state Senate by a 38 to 12 vote Friday. It immediately went to the House, which approved it 156-39 on Wednesday.

The bill would allow third through eighth class counties to adopt resolutions abolishing the office of jury commissioner upon of the completion of the current jury commissioner's term.

State senators David G. Argall, who co-sponsored the bill, and John Yudichak both approved the bill, as did representatives Doyle Heffley and Jerry Knowles.

Commissioners in Carbon and Schuylkill counties were among boards of commissioners in 42 counties that had voted under a 2011 law overturned on March 14 by the state Supreme Court to abolish the office of jury commissioners after the current terms ended. Commissioners from both counties said abolishing the offices would save more than $20,000 a year.

The court overturned the law, Act 108, it violated a provision in the Pennsylvania constitution which forbids lawmakers from tacking unrelated issues onto bills. If the governor signs SB 808 into law, Carbon expects to once again abolish the office, Commissioners Chairman Wayne Nothstein has said.

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania has argued that the office of jury commissioners is outdated in light of technological change jury selection is now largely computerized. The Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners, on the other hand, believes jury commissioners perform valuable duties in selecting and managing juries.

In a related matter, the state Supreme Court on April 17 ruled that jury commissioner candidates (one representing each party are voted into office) will not appear on the May 21 primary el; election ballot. Instead, each party will choose a candidate to appear on the November general election ballot.

The ruling was in response to a request by the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners, which, after the March 14 ruling, asked the court to to decide how to expedite getting jury commissioner candidates' names on the primary ballot.

In its April 17 ruling, the court said there was not enough time to be able to do that, and ruled that no jury commissioner candidates names would appear on the primary ballot.

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