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Civic duty calls, but NYC mayor left off jury

Bloomberg draws a curious crowd in Manhattan court

Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he arrived at the state Supreme Court in Manhattan yesterday for jury duty. He was not chosen. Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he arrived at the state Supreme Court in Manhattan yesterday for jury duty. He was not chosen. (Louis Lanzano/Associated Press)

NEW YORK -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent yesterday serving jury duty, but hardly as a regular guy -- he was asked for autographs, sketched by courtroom artists, and greeted personally by the judge and attorneys.

As soon as the mayor reported to state Supreme Court in Manhattan, he stood out from the other 125 New Yorkers: He appeared to be the only prospective juror wearing a suit, trailed by security and press aides, and approached by strangers for handshakes.

Then, an orientation video boomed out over the jury room: "You don't often get to participate in the government, and this is a way to do it," and heads swiveled toward the billionaire seated in the front row.

Bloomberg soon was called along with about 40 others into a courtroom where attorneys were set to begin picking a jury for an asbestos litigation suit. The plaintiff was a woman whose husband had died after years of operating a printing press that her attorneys said had asbestos in its brakes.

After filing into the courtroom carrying his coffee and a binder full of papers and magazines, he sat down to wait. Again.

"Good morning, Mr. Mayor," the judge said. "He's the same as any other juror, as you will now find out," she told the courtroom.

As attorneys for both sides went through a lengthy process of questioning each of the 40 prospective jurors, Bloomberg fidgeted on the wooden bench, at times clasping his hands on his lap or resting his chin in hand.

He yawned when James Long, the plaintiff's attorney, grilled another potential juror about experience her father may have had with printing presses.

Long did not question Bloomberg for long, declaring, "I don't have to ask a lot of questions -- your life's pretty much an open book." He did want assurances that the mayor would not dominate a potential jury of five other people, because of his fame and powerful position.

"I would be one voice of six, but I've got a strong personality, and you'd have to ask them what they think," Bloomberg replied.

Long had already asked the others, and no one spoke up to say they'd be influenced by the mayor if they served on a jury with him.

But the mayor was not selected for the asbestos jury. Court officials told him to return to the jury room today.