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Political parties to select next Westmoreland jury commissioners

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County's next jury commissioners will be selected by the local political parties.

Commonwealth Court Judge James Gardner Collins ruled last week there was not enough time to place the jury commissioner race on the May 21 primary ballot.

Last month, the state Supreme Court overturned a law that gave county commissioners authority to abolish jury commissioner posts. They oversee the selection of potential jurors for criminal and civil trials.

Westmoreland County commissioners last year eliminated two jury commissioner positions, effective at the end of the present terms for incumbents Dan Blissman, a Democrat, and Debbie Irwin, a Republican. Their duties were to be taken over next year by the court administrator's office.

Under Collins' order, the local Democratic and Republican committees will nominate one candidate to appear on the November ballot. Those candidates, barring an unexpected victory by a write-in candidate, would serve a four-year term.

Westmoreland Democratic Committee Chairman Dante Bertani and Republican Committee leader Jill Cooper could not be reached on Tuesday.

Larry Thompson, president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners, said the association will consider an appeal to Collins' order because it denies voters the right to choose candidates.

“We defeated Goliath in the Supreme Court, and the battle is not over,” Thompson said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or Staff writer Adam Brandolph contributed.

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