Sat, Dec 03, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Bush summoned for jury duty, but will see to `other commitments'

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , HOUSTON

There was a scheduling conflict, so a certain McLennan County rancher will not show up on Monday in Waco, Texas, for jury duty after all.

"The president has other commitments," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

No problem, said Judge Ralph Strother of the state District Court, though US President George W. Bush's name had popped up on a random list of Texans summoned for jury service. Strother said he had now given Bush, who owns a 640 hectare ranch outside Crawford, a choice of six other dates from next month to June next year.

Does Strother expect him to show up?

Why, yes, the judge said, the White House assured him that "the president considers it an important civic responsibility and duty."

And, he said he was told, "the president didn't want to be treated differently than anybody else."

But to actually sit on a jury and hear a murder case, say, or perhaps just a civil suit?

"I'd be a little surprised," the judge admitted.

Would he ever lock up the president for being a no-show?

"It didn't cross my mind," said the judge, a Republican who has won two elections to the bench since first being appointed in 1999 by Bush, who was then governor.

Has a celebrity ever sat on one of his juries?

"Not anybody of that magnitude that I recall," Strother said. "And I think I would recall."

Asked about the jury summons, McClellan said at the daily White House briefing that the document had not actually been received by Bush but that news accounts of his name's coming up had prompted the White House to call the judge to reschedule.

It seems to be the first family's time. Just a month ago, Strother said, one of the president's daughters, Barbara, turned up on the jury list and also needed a postponement. Then, he said, on Thursday morning he was glancing at next week's list of 600 jury panelists and did a double take.

"Can you believe this?" he recalled exclaiming. "Now the president's name is on there."

Karen Matkin, the district clerk in Waco, said 27,600 people were randomly selected for service in the county every year from about 150,000 voters and licensed drivers.

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