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Carbon abolishes jury commissioners

Published May 17. 2013 05:03PM

Now that state law once again allows county commissioners to abolish the office jury commissioner, Carbon County wasted no time in doing away with the position.

Each county has two jury commissioners, one Democrat, the other Republican. Their job is to supervise the selection of people to serve on juries. But enough legislators believe that modern technology - jurors are now selected via drivers licenses has made the office obsolete.

So, on May 6, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Act 4, which allows county commissioners to do away with the office, once the current terms end.

For Carbon County, where commissioners on Thursday voted unanimously to end the office, that means saving about $20,000 a year in salaries, and more in benefits, Carbon Commissioners Chairman Wayne Nothstein said.

On Wednesday, commissioners in neighboring Schuylkill County also voted to abolish the office.

The law has had a convoluted journey through the courts, and the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners has promised to challenge this latest version.

Commissioners in 42 counties, including Carbon and Schuylkill, had voted under a 2011 law to abolish the office of jury commissioner after the current terms ended. But on March 14, the state Supreme Court overturned the law, ruling that it violated a provision in the state constitution which bars lawmakers from tacking unrelated issues onto bills.

The jury commissioner's association then asked the court to determine the quickest way to get jury commissioner candidates' names on the May 21 primary ballot.

On April 19, the Supreme Court ruled that the office would not be listed on the primary ballot due to lack of time. Instead, it ruled, each political party would decide which candidates for the office would appear on the general election ballots in November.

But just days before, on April 16, the state Senate crafted and passed SB 808, a stand-alone bill that gives counties the right to abolish the office. The House followed suit on April 24, and Corbett signed the bill into law on May 6.

Locally, the legislation was co-sponsored by state Sen. David G. Argall, and supported by state Sen. John Yudichak. State representatives Doyle Heffley and Jerry Knowles also supported the bill.

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania favors abolishing the offices.

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