State Supreme Court sets jury commissioner argument for March 5

February 22, 2013

The state Supreme Court has scheduled argument on the 2011 law that has given smaller counties the ability to abolish the office of jury commissioner for March 5 in Philadelphia.

Richard Zimmerman of North Strabane Township, Washington County’s Republican jury commissioner, is one of the appellants in the case.

Washington County’s Democratic Jury Commissioner is Judith Fisher of South Strabane Township. Her counterpart in Greene County is Lynn Leathers, while the Republican Jury Commissioner is Rosalind Laur.

Greene County commissioners voted late last year to abolish their jury commission office.

The Supreme Court is reviewing a 4-3 decision by Commonwealth Court that upheld a law allowing county commissioners to eliminate their jury commissioners’ offices.

Washington County has estimated it would save $80,000 a year by doing away with the part-time elected offices, which pay $17,103 plus benefits, and choosing prospective jurors from a computer database.

In scheduling the argument date, the state’s highest court also denied a petition to have the offices of jury commissioner appear on county ballots.

“We were disappointed with the decision to not have the position listed on the primary ballot, as we are convinced we will win this case,” said Jury Commissioner Association President Larry Thompson of Butler County.

“By having the position on the ballot, we would have saved taxpayers money. The denial of the request, we believe, in no way takes away from our arguments that the state law is unconstitutional.”

The filing deadline for candidates running in the May 21 primary is March 12.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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