The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

October 22, 2013

Snyder County commissioners debate future of jury commissioners

MIDDLEBURG — Snyder County Minority Commissioner Peggy Chamberlain Roup said today that the board has missed an opportunity to save thousands of taxpayer dollars over the next four years by not eliminating two jury commissioner positions.

In May, Gov. Tom Corbett signed a new law giving counties an opportunity to eliminate jury commissioners and it was promptly appealed by the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners.

The issue was settled last month by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling upholding the Commonwealth Court’s decision supporting the law.

Since it’s been tied up in the courts, Snyder County Commissioner Malcolm Derk said he didn’t feel comfortable taking any action to abolish the two jury commissioner jobs, one from each political party.

“There was a constitutional challenge to the law,” he said.

Derk said he also opposed getting rid of the positions since the county would still have to pay someone to do the work.

But Roup said it would be much less than the county is already shelling out. Each jury commissioner will be paid $8,792 a year in 2014.

“There would be a substantial savings,” she said, adding that several other counties are getting rid of the “antiquated positions.”

Supporters of abolishing the jury commissioner job, created by the state Legislature in the late 1880s, say they’re no longer necessary since computer programs do much of the work randomly selecting jurors.

Derk isn’t swayed. “Jury commissioners are accountable to the voter. We get a lot of calls for jury issues,” he said.

The two four-year jury commissioner positions are up for election in Snyder County next month.

Donald Hackenberg, 79, was completing his third term and was seeking re-election when he passed away Oct. 8.

His name will remain on the ballot as the sole Republican candidate and Snyder-Union President Judge Michael H. Sholley will be responsible for appointing a commissioner

Naomi Hoffman is seeking re-election as the only Democratic candidate.

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