County eliminates jury commisioner positions
Lycoming County no longer will use the services of elected jury commissioners after this year.
County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday that eliminates the two positions, which were responsible for preparing jury questionnaires and establishing lists of eligible citizens to serve on jury pools for county court cases.
Commissioners took action after Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill into law Monday that authorizes county commissioners to cut the positions.
Local state lawmakers Sen. E. Eugene Yaw-R, Loyalsock Township; and Reps. Garth Everett, R-Muncy; Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport; Michael Hanna, D-Lock Haven; and Matthew E. Baker, R-Wellsboro, all voted in favor of the legislation before it went to the governor.
Frank Lupacchino, the county’s elected Republican jury commissioner, and Jessie Bloom, elected Democrat jury commissioner, will serve through the remainder of the year, when their four-year terms expire.
Bloom, however, said she believes the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners will pursue legal challenges to the new law.
“That’s not something that’s going to be a done deal yet,” said Bloom, who, along with Lupacchino, earns just more than $7,700 a year in their part-time positions. “If this is what the county wants to do, that’s their perogative. They are going to take it to court.”
In fact, the position of jury commissioner was challenged several years ago in the state when the Legislature passed a measure to do away with it. The law was found unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court because it was attached to other, unrelated subjects.
Jury commissioners are responsible for pouring over about 18,000 jury questionnaires a year and determining eligibility, according to Kevin Way, county court administrator.
“A lot of that has been automated in recent years,” he said. “When I started 23 years ago, the jury commissioners typed each questionnaire with a typewriter.”
Way said that the same information will continue to go out to potential jurists.
Bloom said that jury commissioners have been paid less in Lycoming County than in other counties, where an average part-time yearly salary is about $11,000.
She added that she and Lupacchino have saved Lycoming County $2,000 during their four-year terms by not joining the state jury commissioners association.
“The main thing that we’re concerned about” is the 18,000 questionnaires, Bloom said.
“The two of us have to go through them every year. I don’t know how they’re going to do that with a computer,” she said.