Called for jury duty -- 24 years late


November 15, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Meg Catzen thought she left Charm City behind in 1982 when, as a recent Hopkins grad, she moved to the West Coast. She registered to vote in California and got her driver's license there, got married, bought a house and launched a career as a lobbyist in Sacramento. Nearly a quarter-century later, at 51, she considers herself a Californian, not a Baltimorean.

Tell it to the jury commissioner, lady.

Baltimore City Circuit Court wants her for jury duty.

A jury summons for Catzen arrived in October at her parents' Bolton Hill home - an address where she has never lived. (She used her parents' Park Avenue home as her permanent address while she was at Hopkins. But in 2002, her parents moved to Bolton Place, where Jury Summons No. 11062006-205 landed in the mailbox.)

Catzen tried calling the phone number on the summons. No answer. She tried e-mail. No response. Her mother wrote a letter, which at last, inspired a reply - a letter, demanding proof that she didn't live in Baltimore.

"I don't know how to prove a negative," Catzen said. "This whole thing has me stupefied and amazed."

In truth, it wouldn't be that hard to prove. Jury commissioner Nancy Dennis told me that people who have moved away are sent summonses all the time. All they have to do to get out of jury duty is provide a copy of something - like a driver's license or lease - showing they've settled elsewhere.

But Catzen, fearing she might be the victim of voter fraud or identity theft, wants to know how she wound up being summoned in the first place.

"I think they owe me an explanation before I owe them one," she said.

Catzen has been searching for one, with help from her mother-turned-gumshoe, Penny Catzen. The jury commissioner's office told Penny Catzen that they got her daughter's name from the Board of Elections.

But the elections board said she wasn't on its rolls.

The jury commissioner's office insisted her name came from voting lists and provided a voter number.

The elections board said it had no such number.

Perhaps more puzzling: The jury folks said Catzen was taken off their rolls in 2000, but reappeared for some reason in 2005.

Even harder to believe: When Penny Catzen asked an elections clerk to check the records by her daughter's birthdate, the clerk not only failed to find Meg, but said there was only one person in the whole system born on Nov. 14, 1955. (Happy birthday, Margaret Ann O'Neill, whoever you are.)

Catzen was supposed to show up for jury duty Nov. 6. Needless to say, she was a no-show.

Another letter arrived at her parents' address last week. It says she could be fined or jailed.

Open door or revolving door?

Why does everybody accuse the BDC of hashing out big development deals in secret?

Tomorrow, the quasi-public Baltimore Development Corp. holds its first meeting since the state's highest court ruled it's a public body and has to start acting like one. And BDC critics are all jazzed up, like the NSA is about to open up its files.

But the BDC board has held public meetings before. It just didn't bother telling anybody.

In January, the state's second-highest court ruled that the board had to follow the state's Open Meetings and Public Information acts. So BDC opened the doors for some meetings, board members belatedly told The Sun's Jill Rosen.

"We went ahead and implemented new procedures," board member Deborah Hunt Devan said. "Nobody came."

The openness didn't last long anyway, since BDC decided to appeal.

"We were respecting the ruling," BDC board chairman Arnold L. Williams said. "Then we appealed and went back to closed meetings."

Great-granddad Hoyer

With the majority leader race tightening between Steny Hoyer and John Murtha, several dozen reporters packed Hoyer's minority whip office in the Capitol yesterday for his regular weekly press conference, The Sun's Matthew Brown reports.

Here's how Hoyer started: "By the way, I became, 11 days ago, a great-grandfather. How about that? My 20-year-old granddaughter - my daughter's 37. You can tell my middle daughter had a child relatively early in life - but she had Eva Elaine, 8 pounds, 2 ounces. Is there any other news you wanted?"

Connect the dots

Stop slumming. Carmelo Anthony is buying a fancy second home in Sin City, according to Las Vegas Review-Journal gossip columnist Norm Clarke. Clarke reports that the Denver Nuggets star "has purchased a 1,595-square-foot, two-bedroom corner unit on the 23rd floor of the W Las Vegas Hotel, Casino & Residences." ... At Mass at the restored Basilica on Sunday, The Sun's Liz Kay reports, Cardinal William Keeler introduced retired archbishop William Donald Borders - as William Donald Schaefer.

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