A Question for Gonzales
About that juror disclosure form ...
Here's a question I'd like to see someone ask Alberto Gonzales at his confirmation hearing for the post of attorney general:
In October 1996, President Bush, then governor of Texas, was summoned to jury duty in Austin. Gov. Bush boasted to the press that he did not intend to use some "feeble excuse" to avoid jury duty. But when Gov. Bush showed up at the Travis County Courthouse, he was assigned to a drunk-driving case. As the public would learn four years later, the governor had once been busted for drunk driving in Maine.
As Gov. Bush's general counsel, Mr. Gonzales, you moved quickly to persuade the judge in chambers that Gov. Bush, despite his public statements, was ineligible on the grounds that he might later be in a position to pardon the person being tried (even though this is not an offense for which people typically request or receive pardons). In retrospect, it seems pretty clear that the reason for Gov. Bush's change of heart was that you advised him that he was sure to be asked during voir dire whether he'd ever been involved in a drunk-driving incident. The judge accepted your clemency argument, dismissed Gov. Bush from jury duty, and inadvertently kept Gov. Bush's secret safe. Later the defense attorney, David Wahlberg, told Texas Monthly that you "snookered all of us."
When Gov. Bush appeared that day for jury duty, he did not fill out the part of the jury questionnaire that asked him to list any previous convictions. When this was revealed in the press in 2000, Bush's presidential campaign claimed that the form had been filled out by a gubernatorial aide. My question is this: Did you instruct Gov. Bush, or one of his aides, to leave that part of the jury questionnaire form blank? If so, was that consistent with your duties as an employee not of George W. Bush, private citizen, but of the state of Texas?
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.