ShareThis Page

State lawmakers will hold hearing on bill to diversify jury pools

| Friday, Sept. 30, 2005, 12:00 p.m.

Pennsylvania legislators will consider a plan during a public hearing next week in Oakland to help local courts make sure blacks are fairly represented in jury pools.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing Monday at the University of Pittsburgh to discuss a proposed law that would give county courts computer lists of people who pay state or local taxes or receive welfare payments each year.

Those lists -- stripped of all information except name and address -- would be used to fill gaps in the driver's license and voter records that courts now use to determine who can be called for jury duty.

"Diversity on a jury pool is very important to make sure that individuals have their appropriate day in court," said state Sen. Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills, minority chairman of the committee. "If we cannot get a jury of their peers to adjudicate their cases, the system's not running properly."

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported in 2002 that people in black neighborhoods in Allegheny County were only half as likely to get summoned for jury duty as people in white neighborhoods. Although 11 percent of county adults were black, only 4 percent of people serving jury duty were black, the Trib reported.

U.S. Supreme Court rulings require that jury pools reflect a "fair cross-section" of the community.

Legislators subsequently ordered a statewide study of the issue, which found the same problem. Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas began supplementing its jury pools last year with extra jurors from neighborhoods with large minority populations.

The county's two elected jury commissioners, whose job was to maintain lists of eligible jurors and summon them randomly for jury duty, were part of a row office consolidation measure that passed in May. Jean Milko and Allan Kirschman will be replaced by an appointed court records director when their terms expire this year.

Monday's public hearing will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the William Pitt Union ballroom.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me