Jury post outlives its usefulness
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck down a state law allowing Lancaster County, among other counties, to eliminate the post of jury commissioner.
The court's decision is disappointing, considering the post long ago outlived its usefulness, with its primary duty -- jury selection -- being done by a computer, going back to the 1980s.
Lancaster County currently has two jury commissioners, who are paid a total of $36,000 annually merely to greet prospective jurors and ask a few routine questions.
In rendering its decision, the court did not try to second-guess the state Legislature or county commissioners, who provide oversight of the post.
Instead, the court struck down the law based on a technicality, finding that it violates the state Constitution's "single subject rule," since the law also dealt with procedures for counties to sell personal and farm property.
Selling property is an executive function, while abolishing the post of jury commissioner is a legislative one, the court asserted.
So, Lancaster County and other counties are missing an opportunity to save taxpayer dollars while streamlining the jury-selection process.
Never fear, state Sen. Lloyd Smucker is here.
Smucker, a West Lampeter Republican, is introducing legislation that would abolish the post while satisfying the court's concern.
Those who favor keeping the post view such legislation as less about saving money and more about a power grab by county commissioners.
But that isn't a very convincing argument, since the heavy lifting for the job of selecting juries is done not by man but a machine.
Others argue that since the post is elective, voters are somehow being disrespected if a jury commissioner would be forced to step down before the completion of his or her term.
That's a laudable view, but it should not be an excuse for wasting scarce taxpayer dollars.
Still others say that if a change is to be made, it should be done by amending the state's Constitution, not by legislative fiat.
But surely the amendment process should be reserved for more weighty matters, such as reducing the size of the state Legislature or banning same-sex marriage.
Smucker wants his new bill fast-tracked by the Legislature, and we hope he gets his wish.
Of course, the two jury commissioners here -- Debbie Frantz and Kathleen Harrison -- could accept the inevitable and resign immediately.
But we're not holding our breath.
The court's decision is disappointing, considering the post long ago outlived its usefulness.