If the Lycoming County commissioners have their way, jury commissioners soon will not be a part of the county's justice system.
On Thursday, the commissioners will consider a resolution abolishing the position, beginning January 2014.
According to county Commissioner Jeff C. Wheeland, the elected position is held by two people, one each from the Democratic and Republican parties.
Beginning next year, the county will begin phasing out the position, though the current jury commissioners, Democrat Jesse Bloom and Republican Frank Lupacchino, will remain on the job during the transition, he said.
Kevin Way, county court administrator, said jury commissioners oversee the mailing in mid September of about 18,000 questionnaires to potential jurors in the county for the following year.
As questionnaires are returned, the commissioners review them and enter the responses into a computer system. By mid November they provide the court with a master list of between 6,000 and 7,000 potential jurors, Way said.
From that list the commissioners prepare a list every five weeks of about 800 people and present that list to the courts.
According to Way, his office sends out notices to those people and processes and considers reasons provided by some of them as to why they cannot serve on a jury. After weeding out those with legitimate excuses, the court system usually ends up with a monthly pool of about 500 people from which to choose from, he said.
According to Way, his office, the prothonotary and information services is working a computer system that will replace the commissioners.
"We're working with the prothonotary and information services to write an internal program that will better computerize the process and make it more efficient," he said.
Way said he expects the system to be up and running by the middle of next year.
The system will be more efficient for the courts and more convenient for potential jurors, Wheeland said.
Once the system is in place, potential jurors no longer will have to call the court administrator to see if they have been selected, he said. They can find that information online, he said.
Jury commissioners receive an annual salary of about $7,700, Wheeland said. Any savings the county may see by eliminating the position most likely will be invested in the technology used for jury selection, he said.
Wheeland said Lycoming County is following the lead of other counties in the state that have eliminated the position.
Way agreed. "I think it's a trend," he said.