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Legislation Aims to Keep PA First Responders on Alert, Out of Jury Box

October 11, 2017
FROM:     Don Konkle, Executive Director, PFESI
BY:         Marcia Moore (The Daily Item)
RE:         Legislation Aims to Keep PA First Responders on Alert, Out of Jury Box

A proposed state bill to exempt emergency services workers from jury duty has support from Northumberland County Court Administrator Kevin O'Hearn.

"There's a large enough jury pool without them," said O'Hearn who oversees the administration of three courtrooms that typically handle 15 criminal trials a year.

The legislation excluding volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians has been introduced by state Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, in an effort to ensure public safety.

"I believe that our dedicated emergency services folks should be available at all times to respond to threats to public health and safety," Diamond said. "Granted, jury duty is a public service, but the volunteer fire and emergency service technicians are charged with saving lives, many times in an immediate fashion. This exemption from jury service should become law so that we will have all of our first-responders ready to go at a moment's notice."

A volunteer fire chief in Kulpmont, O'Hearn is in favor of the bill which would align the state with federal law which already exempts emergency service personnel from jury duty in federal courts.

"Our volunteer numbers are dwindling drastically," he said, of the difficulty in attracting volunteers into emergency service. "It might help (recruitment) if we could say they won't have to serve on jury duty."

Diamond said the bill is a "common sense provision to aid in the protection of our communities." 

Currently, the only people exempted from jury duty in state court are active military members and anyone who can demonstrate serving would present an extreme hardship or inconvenience.

That includes people who have served on jury duty within the past three years; spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents and grandchildren of victims of criminal homicide; anyone 75 years or older and breastfeeding women.

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