Cook County (Ill)

Obama Expected to Report for Jury Duty in Illinois Next Month

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Judge Evans did not return requests for additional comment on Saturday. A spokesman for Mr. Obama declined to comment, saying that “this is a personal matter on his private schedule.”

Mr. Obama — who was also summoned for jury duty in 2009 but could not attend because he was occupied with, among other things, planning a State of the Union address — might in some respects be the ideal juror, given his background as a lawyer and former law professor. But his presence in the courtroom could also be a distraction.

When the actor Tom Hanks served on a jury in Los Angeles in 2013, defense lawyers asked for a mistrial in a domestic violence case after a prosecutor approached him during a lunch break to thank him for his service. (Both sides agreed to a plea deal.)

But Daniel Wolfe, the senior vice president of the trial consulting firm DecisionQuest, said the greatest concern for lawyers on both sides would be whether Mr. Obama would effectively become a “jury of one,” with other jurors deferring to his opinion.

“That’s the risk you always run with someone with that type of notoriety, is that people would be highly deferential to him,” Mr. Wolfe said. “He’s a smart, articulate, affable individual. If a lawyer’s feeling like he’s going to carry too much weight, they may not feel comfortable.”

Mr. Obama is not the first former president to receive a letter calling on him to carry out this civic duty.

Former President George W. Bush sat through jury selection in 2015 in Texas, although he was not chosen to serve. Former President Bill Clinton also filled out a jury questionnaire for a gang shooting case in federal court in Manhattan in 2003. He was not selected either.

Fame does not mean that being selected is out of the question.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry was selected for a jury in Massachusetts in 2005 and his fellow jurors elected him foreman. Oprah Winfrey, another high-profile Chicagoan, served on a jury in 2004 that convicted a man of murder.

Mr. Wolfe said that given the relative scarcity of celebrities in Chicago and Chicagoans’ fondness for the former president, there was a “real possibility” that Mr. Obama could be selected to serve.

“They’re proud of Obama, and I think they’d be proud to have him serve on their jury,” he said.

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Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

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