To The Editor:
On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives joined the Senate of Pennsylvania in a shameful attempt to circumvent a ruling of the state Supreme Court and unlawfully, once again, eliminate an elected office that has protected the public’s rights in the selection of juries for 145 years.
We, the members of the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners, are in no way surprised by the House action. This legislation was fast tracked in both the House and Senate from the beginning. For the past two weeks, the Pennsylvania Legislature has seen fit to spend taxpayer time and money on a hell bent agenda to circumvent a decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by increasing the power of county commissioners to abolish the elected office of Jury Commissioner in the year it stands for election.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on March 14 ruled the Legislature’s first attempt to abolish the office was unconstitutional. We believe Governor Corbett will sign the latest bill, SB 808, into law and once he does our association will file suit in Commonwealth Court.
The Legislature is attempting to reverse the way jurors are independently selected for jury trials; a system that has been effective for 145 years. The Legislature did this by removing historic language that, in years past, protected elected offices from this type political aggression in an election year.
Instead of actively addressing bulging legislative pensions, embarrassing criminal convictions of fellow legislators, turnpike corruption and other such matters, our elected representatives caved to the lobbying pressure of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and passed legislation to allow the elimination of the people’s over sight of the selection process for prospective jurors in their respective counties.
If the jury selection process is turned over to court administrators, the public over sight will be non-existent. These individuals are hired by and answer only to the president judge. They are totally isolated from the light of public scrutiny. The public’s trust in our judicial system would be in jeopardy of being lost.
Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners