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Bring Your Baby to Court and You Could Face Arrest

Bring Your Baby to Court and You Could Face Arrest

For bringing her 7-month-old son, Axel, to jury duty so she could breastfeed him, Laura Trickle is facing arrest.

Trickle, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was first summoned to jury duty in January. Because she was pregnant, she was granted a postponement. Axel was born in March; in August, Trickle received another jury duty notice. She informed court officials that she was breastfeeding but, as KMOV reports, was told that she had to report to court and find a caregiver for her son.

Hoping that the judge might grant her an exemption, Trickle brought Axel to Jackson County Court only to be charged with contempt of court on the grounds that she “willfully and contemptuously appeared for jury service with her child and no one to care for the child.” Trickle must attend a hearing scheduled for Thursday in Jackson County Circuit court; she faces a fine of up to $500 and could also be arrested.

Missouri law does allow for some exemptions should a juror face “an undue or extreme physical or financial hardship,” as Jackson County Presiding Judge Marco Roldan said to the Kansas City Star. Roldan noted that he has, on some occasions, “excused potential jurors who just had a death in the family, or teachers who were scheduled to give midterm exams.”

But, as Roldan told KMOV, mothers who breastfeed are not seen as incurring such “undue or extreme physical or financial hardship” as they can ”pump on breaks or bring someone along to care for their children and nurse on breaks.”

Trickle countered that it would indeed have been a hardship for her and Axel if she were not able to breastfeed him as he does not take a bottle and must be with her to eat. She also noted that, as a stay-at-home mother, she does not have a child care provider.

Some States Exempt Breastfeeding Mothers From Jury Dury, But Not Misouri

The options that Roldan offered Trickle rest on a number of assumptions, that a woman who’s been nursing an infant full-time can just start pumping as needed; that an exclusively breast-fed child will just go to a bottle; that a mother who’s been staying at home to care for a newborn can find and pay for a caregiver for however long she has jury duty (and whether a child will be comfortable with that unfamiliar caregiver for an extended period of time).

Anne Biswell of the Mother & Child Health Coalition, which serves the Kansas City area, says that legislation to exempt breastfeeding women from jury duty is being reintroduced in the next session of the Missouri legislature. Indeed, if Trickle lived just across state lines in Kansas, there would have no issue at all as Kansas is one of the twelve states in which breastfeeding women are exempt from just duty.

A change to Missouri’s jury duty law may not be so easy to accomplish. Were lawmakers to consider exempting breastfeeding mothers, “the needs of other stakeholder groups, such as those who care for the elderly or infirm,” would also need to be considered, says Nikki Simmons, a Stockton, Mo., spokeswoman for La Leche League, to the Kansas City Star.

Noting that “a lot of women immediately go into defensive mode” about Missouri’s not allowing an exemption from jury dury for breastfeeding mothers, Simmons suggests that women ought to seek a solution on an ad hoc basis by consulting with someone whom she refers to as a “gatekeeper”:

“…sometimes what new moms forget is that sometimes all it takes is going and having a gentle conversation with a gatekeeper, who is often a secretary.”

But women seeking to do what is best for their young children should not have to make such “arrangements” via a “gentle conversation.” Simmons’ comments only offers more reason as to why Missouri needs to change its law and exempt breastfeeding women from jury dury.

Trickle was not trying to avoid her duty as a citizen but to do what she needs to do as a mother. Calling the whole situation “scary,” she emphasizes that she is more than willing to serve jury duty but “the issue is the timing. I just can’t do it right now.”

 

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146 comments

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3:44PM PST on Nov 18, 2013

what is the harm in another postponement? what a shitty judge

6:13PM PST on Nov 4, 2013

There are always others who are not breast feeding babies who could be called upon. So there is absolutely no reason good enough to require nurseing mothers to do jury duty. Stupid, spiteful judge throwing his power over young women and infants around. And no body should have to just 'suck up' and do it cause hey, they went back to work leaving their 6 week old infant in day care.
Like that has anything to do with enforced jury duty.

1:18PM PDT on Oct 30, 2013

Idiot judge for wanting her arrested.

10:25PM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

I don't buy that no one else can take care of the baby. Does this woman NEVER EVER leave the house without him in tow?
What if, instead of being called to jury duty, she had had to be hospitalized? Someone would have had to be found to care for him and get sustenance into him.
I nursed my daughter, went back to work when she was six weeks old, and pumped milk to send to day care with her.
She was allowed one exemption. It sucks that her name came up again before the baby was weaned, but sometimes life is inconvenient. You suck it up and deal with it.
Bringing the baby to court with her was a stupid stunt. Babies do not belong in courtrooms.It distracts the mother from paying attention to the evidence and testimony being given. It isn't fair to the person standing trial, the attorneys presenting their cases, or the other jurors.

7:44PM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

I believe she should have had her Doctor write a letter to excuse her.

4:22PM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

I'd like to know if the judge was ever breastfeeding and that if his mother was being called to jury duty during that time. I know there are various saying and different points of view, but everyone has his/her personal problem- like financial situation that can't afford a caretaker, the baby may not be trained on bottle fed overnight and so forth... I'm just saying being a mother of a baby is tough enough as I was told, mothers have to get up constantly in the middle of the nights. I'm not a mother for that reason but I do understand the role of being a good mother, yet carry out more other duties. So I hope MO will change the law and I hope they don't arrest the mother for trying to be a good citizen and a good mother. Her baby needs his Mom.

7:30PM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

Thanks for sharing

11:53AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

@ A.F. and Holly C. - As a mother who breastfed all three of my children I totally agree with you!

5:35AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

i wish woman would stop using their pregnancy and babies as an excuse when facing charges.

12:42AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

So very wrong.

We were born to be breastfed. It's natural. It's life. Deal with it. Not a damn thing wrong with it and it's already not necessarily the easiest thing to do, so they need to stop making it more difficult.

The antibodies in breast milk are proven to make kids healthier than formula. Some studies say formula-fed babies are more prone to obesity and they might even be slower on the learning curve. Moms who try to breastfeed should be applauded, not treated like a burden or an eyesore.

If you are able to physically breastfeed and don't have some type of illness or limitation that prevents it, it's best for the baby in so many ways. I understand some women choose not to do this for other reasons and that's their prerogative. But a mother should be able to CHOOSE not to breastfeed if they wish, not be pressured into it for something like this. There's plenty of people whose time they waste at jury duty calls, where they just show up, wait awhile and go home. Let one of them do it. :P

I'm so tired of the stigma associated with this. It's like the Facebook thing right now. They can air incredibly violent scenes, no problem, but a mother breastfeeding? THE HORROR!

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