O'Malley answers the call of jury duty

November 28, 2006|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun reporter

Serving as mayor of one of the nation's largest cities and getting elected governor takes more civic responsibility than most citizens own up to in a lifetime. But, it turns out, it still doesn't get you out of jury duty.

Three weeks after winning a contentious gubernatorial election, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley spent eight hours at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse yesterday enduring a jury selection process, which - contrary to the frenetic pace of the campaign trail - mostly involved sitting and waiting.

O'Malley answered to "Juror No. 368" yesterday, but everyone recognized the man in the dark suit, cradling a book by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and offering impromptu tours of the courthouse. When a judge asked one group of jurors if any one of them was a lawyer, O'Malley stood.

"I am a lawyer, my wife was a lawyer. All my brothers are lawyers. Nobody in my family knows how to do anything," O'Malley said, drawing a laugh from the otherwise beleaguered crowd.

Though he is in the midst of a transition to the State House, O'Malley said he had nothing on his schedule yesterday because he received the summons long ago. He was considered for two civil trials and dismissed from both.

Throughout the day, lawyers, judges and other potential jurors, mostly strangers, shook the mayor's hand and congratulated him on beating Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. But at one point, as O'Malley walked between courthouses, a familiar and not-so-friendly face approached from the other direction: State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy.

Jessamy, a longtime rival of O'Malley's who endorsed his opponent in the Democratic primary, initiated a half-hearted high-five in the middle of Calvert Street and then asked if the mayor had been selected yet. When he said no, Jessamy said, "We'll keep on wishing."

When O'Malley reached the other side of Calvert Street - out of Jessamy's earshot - he smiled and said only: "There are many thoughts I have right now."

The mayor - who is married to District Judge Catherine "Katie" Curran O'Malley - was last called for jury duty in January 2002. At the time, he was named foreman on a personal injury case involving a Northeast Baltimore flute player who was squeezed in the door of a Maryland Transit Administration bus. It was the first time in decades a mayor had served on a jury, according to reports at the time.

O'Malley was not the only elected official present in the jury room yesterday. City Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. - an outspoken O'Malley critic - was also present. The two spoke briefly before the mayor left for a previously scheduled lunch. Oddly enough, D'Adamo and O'Malley were also both called on the same day in 2002.

Yesterday, the governor-elect spent most of his time in the jury pool room, where he eschewed the movie - Monster-in-Law, staring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda - in favor of two books. He read Rubin's In An Uncertain World and had a copy of Downsizing Prisons: How to Reduce Crime and End Mass Incarceration as a backup.

Twice his number was called. The first case, before Circuit Judge Wanda K. Heard, involved a car accident that took place on Interstate 295 near Russell Street. Because a Baltimore police officer apparently took the accident report, the prospective jurors were asked whether they had any bias for or against police. Again, O'Malley stood.

"I head a municipal corporation that pays the Baltimore City police officers every two weeks," he said.

Later, O'Malley was called to Judge Kaye A. Allison's court for a defamation case against a company that performs background checks on employees. Several other potential jurors - including a cardiologist and a pediatrician - said they could not serve because of their schedules.

O'Malley, who confessed he thought he might be selected for the case, was struck. Along with the doctors and most of the others, he was sent home.

He was entitled to a $15 stipend for his day, but O'Malley said he declined it.

"One of the great honors of citizenship is jury duty," he said.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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