The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


February 15, 2013

Pay heed or pay the price

Cambria court cracking down on no-shows

— It’s apparent a lot of Cambria County residents are not taking their civic responsibilities seriously.

County officials, including judges, say that’s about to end – at least when it comes to responding to summonses for jury duty.

If no-shows and non-respondents are found in contempt of court, they will be fined $100, President Judge Timothy Creany told our Kathy Mellott.

The penalty could be much worse, obviously.

Mellott received a summons of sort herself when Creany asked her to stop by his office last week. He, Judge Norman Krumenacker and court administrator William Valko wanted to notify people that things were changing. But even more, they wanted a Tribune-Democrat story informing residents of   what is expected by the courts, and what happens if those expectations are not met.

“My colleagues and I are pretty fair,” Creany reasoned. “We want to be fair. We want people to understand they have this obligation and we’re prepared to fine them.”

Added Valko, “We excuse many more than most counties.”

Fair enough.

Frankly, we were shocked, as we suspect were a majority of our readers.

Jury selection was held recently for several criminal cases. Forty-three of the 215 county residents ordered to appear, didn’t.

Krumenacker added that when jury selection for a murder trial last month should have brought in 128 potential jurors, 31 people were no-shows.

Unbelievable and unacceptable.

What’s going on?

According to Creany, at one time, names of prospective jurors were pulled from voter registration lists. That has been expanded to include state driver’s license listings, state Department of Revenue tax filing records and state Department of Public Welfare data.

That certainly makes it a much fairer process for all county residents.

Effective with the prospective jurors summoned to appear for the next round, April 4, those without a preapproved dismissal who fail to show will be ordered to appear at a hearing and, subsequently, could face fines.

Quoting a Supreme Court judge, Creany told Mellott that asking to determine the guilt or innocence of another is one of the highest expressions of citizenship.

We agree. Thumbing your nose at our court system won’t be tolerated.

We hope county residents have gotten the message – for their own sakes.

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