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EditorialGeorge W. Bush reported for Jury Duty in Dallas Tuesday, somewhat to the surprise of, well, everyone.  Whether you liked him as President or not, you have to admire him for appearing, even though the chances of him being empaneled were close to nil.  But it was great example for all those people who offer any excuse to get out of this civic duty.

District Judge Eric Moyé and potential jurors were reportedly excited to have a president in the court.  And all the other 34 people in his jury pool got to pose for pictures with Bush.  But despite the feel-good story, Bush made a good point.  First of all it is inconceivable to think he couldn't have gotten out of appearing if he had chosen to do so.  And whatever else you can say about the man, he has kept such a low profile since leaving Washington that you can't accuse him of seeking publicity.  So what's left?

It was a great teaching opportunity.  If a former president shows up for jury duty so should you.  How can your excuse be any better than what he can come up with?  You have to walk your dog?  You see UFOs?  You can't control excessive passing of wind?  You have matinee tickets to see Taylor Swift?

I have been called a couple of times.  I think it is natural to have an automatic 'oh crap' response.  It will disrupt your schedule.  If empaneled you'll have to abide eleven other people in a closed space, not to mention trying to make sense of legalese to the exclusion of common sense.  Someone's fate will ride on your decision.  It is a lot of responsibility.

But it's interesting.  You get to have a first hand experience of a branch of government and its workings.  And theoretically you provide the defendant with something you would want if your places were reversed: a fair, unbiased evaluation of the facts.

One of the times I was called I was pretty sure I wouldn't be empaneled.  The defendant's attorney was full of himself, strutting around the courtroom asking each potential juror if they knew of him because he wrote a column for the Ithaca Journal.  The defendant had obviously not been prepped in very basic things like dressing for court.  He couldn't have looked more guilty in ragged jeans and a T-shirt.  The attorney was enjoying being the center of attention to his captive audience.  I was rooting for the prosecution for the simple reason that I thought the defendant's attorney was a boorish, narcissistic popinjay, not because of anything the defendant did or didn't do.  I found this attorney so irritating that had I been asked whether I had any pre-formed conclusions I would have blurted out these things and surely been dismissed.   

Another time I was looking forward to being chosen, just for the experience, but the same thing happened to me that happened to President Bush this week -- the full jury was chosen before I was called.  By the numbers that's what's likely to happen to most people, and when it does your service is over for the requisite number of years.

While I am sure I'll have that initial 'oh crap' reaction the next time I am called, I will remind myself of something we should all keep in mind when weighing our freedoms and quality of life in America and what we should be paying back to have them.  When I was in high school this country had a military draft.  Those who were called had their life disrupted a lot more dramatically than any potential juror ever did.  Serving on a jury is a relatively small thing we can do for our country.  Bush was right to do it.

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