Monday, July 16, 2018

Carlton: The politics of jury duty, pontificating and Prince

If you think only working stiffs and people without courthouse connections get stuck with jury duty, consider this:

Among the Hillsborough County citizens summoned to show up Monday morning is Mark Ober, who would have to take the day off from being the state attorney.

You know, the elected official responsible for the criminal charges faced by people going on trial.

One could assume Ober would have a pretty good excuse for ducking jury duty — not to mention some useful courthouse connections.

Oh, but there's plenty of justice to go around —and lots of civil matters in need of a jury even though they involve neither a crime nor a state attorney.

Said Ober about Monday morning: "I look forward to it."

Here is a story I like about the duty part of jury duty. Back when she was running for Tampa mayor in 1995, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt got a jury summons for the day before the election — traditionally an important last chance for a candidate to shake hands and wave campaign signs.

Did Platt get out of jury duty? Have it postponed? Call in a favor?

A squeaky-clean Girl Scout of a politician, she did not. She sat on a marble courthouse bench as the politicking went on without her. "I have never asked to be excused in the past, and I do not intend to ask to be excused this time," she said Plattishly. She lost to the popular Dick Greco.

And good for her. Inconvenient and often boring, jury duty is still the only shot we have at anything vaguely resembling justice. It works only if citizens — all kinds of citizens — show up.

Ask Gov. Rick Scott about anything — hurricane predictions, the Rays' slump — and he will tell you the answer is:

Jobs.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. It is his mantra, his one note, his method for deflecting question and criticism: Jobs.

So it is no surprise that when Scott comes to rally the crowds for Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week, his topic will be … jobs.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is also speaking. Her subject is law enforcement, a topic indeed related to her job.

She is an interesting choice. Well-known and telegenic, she is also controversial, given the eyebrows raised over her soliciting a $25,000 campaign contribution from Trump around the time citizens had lodged complaints about Trump University. Her office did not open an investigation and told consumers to contact New York, which was looking into it. And no, it's not in next week's talking points.

Kids from some of Tampa's toughest neighborhoods took a field trip downtown this week and ended up in Mayor Bob Buckhorn's office, with its sofa, fireplace and bookshelves, and photos of the mayor grinning with no less than Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

Also impressive is a poster of the mayor firing a big machine gun from the deck of a military combat boat during a special ops exercise.

Apparently, the mayor said later, the kids had been told he was someone important.

So one of them had a question for him.

Did he know Prince?

Sue Carlton can be reached at [email protected]

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