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i remember during the times that i've had to go, when everyone is gathered at the beginning, the judge would ask for those who had legitimate excuses to come down and tell him what they were. he said that included prepaid travel plans, like an airline ticket.
another time, the judge just asked everyone who needed to leave to raise their hands. they counted and determined that they still had more than enough people, so we got to leave, no questions asked.
eta: i would think you could call and explain, and it wouldn't be a problem.
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