Breastfeeding Mom In Legal Trouble For Bringing Baby To Jury Duty
Find out why a breastfeeding mom in Missouri faces contempt of court charges after bringing her baby with her to jury duty
When Laura Trickle was called for jury duty last month in Jackson County, Missouri, the new mom found herself facing a dilemma. Trickle had already postponed jury duty once — she was eight months pregnant when the first summons arrived — and knew she had to go or face the consequences. The problem? Her 5-month old baby was exclusively breastfeeding and wouldn’t take a bottle. As a stay-at-home mom, Trickle also lacked access to childcare.
At first, Trickle attempted to explain her situation to the courts, but her request for a second postponement was denied because, unlike neighboring Kansas and some other states, Missouri (currently) does not exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty.
With no other options, Trickle showed up for jury duty, with her nursing baby in tow.
Within minutes of arriving, the mom was given a choice by the judge to find a babysitter or use “a private room to pump milk and store it, feeding it to their children later.” As Trickle explained in an interview with KCTV5, “I would be able to pump on breaks, unfortunately, Axel doesn’t take a bottle, so that’s not an option for us. The other option was to have someone stay with me all day and then be able to nurse on breaks. But since I’m a stay-at-home mom, we don’t have childcare.”
After Trickle informed the judge why these options would not work out, she was charged with being in contempt of court, a charge that can carry with it a $500 fine. In other words, way more than a day’s worth of babysitting would have cost.
“It is not right. It is not fair for us. We’re just trying to do what is best for our children, and we shouldn’t be penalized and fined for it,” Trickle expressed to the news station.
Can you empathize with this mom? I sure can. We had just moved to a new town right before our first child was born, meaning that when my maternity leave started not only were our finances too tight to afford even the occasional sitter, but we also lacked the support of friends or family (aka, free help) living nearby. With my husband at work most of the day, this forced me to take my baby to some very un-baby-friendly places, including a really sketchy car impound lot, the Boston T (metro train) at rush hour, and out in a heavy rainstorm when our indoor cat escaped.
When I think about the $500 fine and all the other costs involved with court hearings, I also think, wouldn’t it have been cheaper for everyone involved if the court had a way to provide childcare, or reimburse childcare costs? Given the circumstances, it seems like a reasonable solution.
For now, Trickle has already had one hearing in the matter. The judge told her that he will wait until June 2014 to issue a ruling on the matter because the Missouri legislature is actually considering legislation to approve jury duty exemptions for nursing moms. Trickle’s story is being used as one reason why this new law is needed.
Still, for the mom, being in legal limbo is no fun. “It has been really scary. It has been very stressful for our family,” she admitted.
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