The Call of Duty

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It is inescapable. It reaches out to us all. There is no running, there is no hiding. No matter how rich, powerful, influential, famous, or infamous you are, you will be called to duty. Not just any duty – one duty in particular. Jury duty. Wednesday, August the 5th, 2015, one of America’s most recognizable figures was called to jury duty in Dallas, Texas – Former President George W. Bush.

The list of individuals who are exempt from jury duty is extremely small, including only active members of the armed forces, police and firefighters, as well as “public officers” of local, state, and federal government. Notice there is no category for former presidents. George W. Bush may have once been the leader of the free world, but he was not free from reporting for jury duty.

Predictably, the 43th president of the United States was not selected as part of the jury panel. Juries must be totally unbiased and must represent a cross section of the population. While former presidents are technically part of the rich mosaic from which a “cross section” of the population could be drawn, it is likely that the judge and the attorneys involved in the cases believed that Former President Bush would be more of a distraction to the jury than anything else. While President Bush likely has a keen legal mind, it may have been difficult for the other potential jurors to move past his presence.

Typically, jurors are selected through a process calledvoir dire. The term originates from Old French and translates as “to speak the truth,” which is exactly what jurors are being asked to do. The voir dire process is designed to weed out jurors who might have trouble looking at the case fairly, or might introduce preexisting biases or prejudices. Keep that in mind next time you are called for jury duty!

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