Reporting Pat Loeb
By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Pennsylvania’s jury commissioners are trying to hold on to their jobs.
They’re asking the State Supreme Court to overturn a law that allows counties to abolish their office.
The Row Office of Jury Commissioners was created right after the Civil War to insure jury selection would be unbiased and apolitical.
Attorney Sam Stretton, who represents the commissioners, says it’s been so successful, people don’t think it still needs safe guarding.
“It’s very worrisome because the integrity of the system depends on a fair process in selecting jurors and making sure there’s no taint to jurors or people being excused because of race or other issues,” explains Stretton.
Stretton maintains the law letting counties abolish the office is unconstitutional because it puts executives in charge of a judicial office, violating the separation of powers.
Ten counties have abolished the office since the bill passed, last year, for thousands of dollars in savings.
However, in at least one case, in Westmoreland County, the commissioner was simply replaced, by the president judge’s daughter.
Jury commissioners are dwindling in Pennsylvania. Legal action aims at keeping them from becoming obsolete.