How we preserve inefficient government

March 28, 2013

You would think that as loaded with lawyers as it is, the Pennsylvania Legislature would be able to enact laws that were not unconstitutional and thus fatally flawed. But that’s what the state Supreme Court ruled our lawmakers did when they “log-rolled” unrelated issues in a single bill, one of them being to permit counties to eliminate the outdated office of jury commissioner.

And it’s not as if such a bill needed to be obscured in order to pass. The concept of allowing county governments to step out of the 19th century and create greater efficiency and save money ought to be popular.

But then again, this is Pennsylvania, which doesn’t like change. Just look at the trouble we’re having trying to rid ourselves of state liquor stores.

Just about the only people in favor of keeping the position of jury commissioner alive are the jury commissioners themselves. Washington County’s Republican Jury Commissioner Richard Zimmerman, 82, and his Democratic counterpart, Judith Fisher, 73, have been fighting tooth and nail to hang on to their jobs. Zimmerman is an appellant in a Commonwealth Court case to force the state to have a primary election for the office, and Fisher was rejected in her attempt to have her name placed on the ballot for May.

Washington County commissioners earlier eliminated the row offices, contending the county would save money by having the functions of the office assumed by other staff. They were right to do so. The days when sheriffs hand-picked jurors in order to secure convictions – sometimes of their political opponents – are long past. Jury selection long ago became an electronic function.

Greene County commissioners also voted to eliminate the office.

The fight waged by the state’s jury commissioners will undoubtedly drag through the court system, amassing legal fees that will eventually be paid by the taxpayer.

And all of this in order to preserve costly, inefficient and archaic governmental function.

Woe is us.



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