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Bill headed to legislature would make police, fire exempt from jury duty

Posted at 6:01 PM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 19:25:14-05

Of all the rooms at the Nueces County Courthouse, the one most people least want to see the inside of is the Central Jury Room.

Few people are exempt from serving on juries, but State Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) recently pre-filed legislation to add police officers and firefighters to the exempt list.

“Nobody should be,” said Anne Lorentzen.  “That’s my personal feeling, that no one deserves to be exempt from it, unless it’s set out by the legislature.”

It’s safe to say Lorentzen is biased about jury duty.  She’s Nueces County’s District Clerk, the person who sends out notices to potential jurors.

Lorentzen worries if Herrero’s bill passes, other professions will also seek exempt status.

“Teachers will feel like they need to be exempt and there will be a push for them,” said Lorentzen.  “And the medical profession, certainly they are first responders every day as well.”

Currently only people over 70, college students, people caring for a sick loved one, or members of the military on orders are exempt from jury duty.

This isn’t the first time Herrero introduced this bill.  House Bill 1090 died in a Senate committee in 2015.  House Bill 1226 never made it out of the House chamber when it was introduced in 2017.

Next session’s bill is House Bill 354.  The Corpus Christi Police Officers Association helped Herrero draft it.

The Corpus Christi Police Officer’s Association not only supports, but applauds Rep. Herrero’s efforts in authoring this bill,” said CCPOA President Scott Leeton in a written statement.  “With this exception, the house bill would allow officers to remain on the streets protecting their community.”

Leeton says most police officers are dismissed during voire dire.  Lorentzen says if a firefighte is serving on a jury, they are allowed to leave if called for an emergency.