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Jury post controversy may be at end in county

September 27, 2013 News Extra

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling may have quashed a potential lawsuit seeking the restoration of the jury commissioners in Butler County.

Larry Thompson, a former county jury commissioner and a former president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners, said a Sept. 17 ruling by the state Supreme Court nullifies the argument to retain the two part-time posts in the county.

“Right now, there is no action we can take,” he said.

That ruling upheld the right of county commissioners to eliminate the jury commissioner positions.

Along with county President Judge Thomas Doerr, the jury commissioners create pools of prospective jurors for civil and criminal trials.

Although Thompson is now the county deputy register of wills, he remained involved with the jury association’s battle to overturn a law signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in May that enabled counties to jettison the posts.

The county commissioners on May 23 voted to cut the jury commissioners at the end of this year, citing costs savings. The salaries and benefits of the posts are budgeted at roughly $71,000 for 2013.

Jury Commissioner Jon Galante said he hasn’t ruled out suing the county.

“I’m researching all my options,” Galante said.

Jury Commissioner Clinton Bonetti said he would consider participating in a lawsuit with Galante.

Commissioner Bill McCarrier, board chairman, said he would be disappointed if a lawsuit would be filed.

He said the outcome of the state court case was expected.

“We were very pleased with the Supreme Court ruling,” McCarrier said. “It’s what we thought it would be.”