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Westmoreland officials vote to abolish jury commissioners

Starting in 2014, jury commissioners will no longer exist in Westmoreland County.

Commissioners Charles Anderson, Tyler Courtney and Ted Kopas voted on Thursday to abolish the elected office that oversees jury selection. The change was made possible under a law signed last month by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Democrat Dan Blissman and a Republican who will be appointed by President Judge Gary Caruso will continue to serve in office through the end of the current term.

Jury commissioners earn about $17,000 in Westmoreland County. The positions are considered part-time jobs. Jury commissioner functions eventually will be absorbed by the court administrator's office.

Larry Thompson, the Republican jury commissioner in Butler County, who serves as president of the Jury Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, told the county commissioners yesterday it was a mistake to abolish the office.

"Gentleman, if you vote this day to abolish the elected office of jury commissioner in Westmoreland County, you will be willing participants in the overturning of 144 years of prospective jury selection reform in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Thompson said.

The association has filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court asking the appeals court to invalidate the new law that allows commissioners to do away with the jury commissioners office.

The lawsuit is pending.

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