Some states allow doctors, firefighters, and teachers to get out
of jury duty because their jobs are too critical to go vacant for
any length of time, but what if you're the leader of the free world?
Turns out, there is no exemption for that occupation - and
President Bush says that's OK by him.
Summoned In December in McLennan County, Texas, where his ranch
is located, Juror No. 286 couldn't make it because he was, well, too
But because he believes it's an important civic responsibility,
Mr. Bush has rescheduled his service. The local judge has offered
him a little latitude, what with all that work back East, so the
president can choose from several dates in the next six months. The
first is Jan. 30.
"He could just show up, but I hope he lets us know with enough
time to meet all the security issues," says Karen Matkin, district
clerk of McLennan County. "We've never had to deal with anything
like this before."
In fact, no modern court has had a sitting president on a jury.
Ronald Reagan came the closest when he was summoned in the 1980s by
Santa Barbara County, Calif. He was granted a deferment until he was
out of office.
Former President Bill Clinton was willing to serve on a case
involving a gang-related shooting when he was called in 2003, but
the judge dismissed him. Then the defendant, convicted and sentenced
to 18 years, appealed, claiming he was deprived of his rights
because Mr. Clinton was excused.
This past November, Sen. John Kerry, Bush's rival in the last
election, served as the jury foreman on a two-day personal- injury
trial in Massachusetts. Senator Kerry said he enjoyed himself but
was surprised he was not stricken from the case, having been a
Middlesex County prosecutor in the 1970s.
Former federal prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani served as jury foreman
on a $7 million personal-injury case while he was mayor of New York
In fact, after New York passed a jury-reform law in 1995 that
eliminated exemptions for lawyers and other professionals, Gov.
George Pataki, Woody Allen, and Spike Lee were called, though none
Occasionally, movie and television stars get seated, like Oprah
Winfrey did last summer in Charlotte, N.C. - although most lawyers
say they avoid powerful personalities that might distract other
The fact is, most high-profile public servants simply ask to be
excused, as was the case last year when US Supreme Court Justice
Stephen Breyer was called for jury duty in Marlborough, Mass. …