As we all know, jury duty is a civic responsibility and a privilege in a democratic society. While some find it exciting, others find it inconvenient, while others find it down right impossible due to physical limitations, financial hardship, and yes even breastfeeding responsibilities.
Recently a young mother from Missouri received a "contempt of court" notice due to the fact she could not leave her young son behind for jury duty in lieu of the fact she breastfeeds him exclusively.
In several recent reports by KCTV 5 out of Kansas City, Missouri, we learn that Laura Trickle of Lee's Summit, Missouri first received a jury summons in January while she was still pregnant but was granted a postponement due to her condition at the time. She received another jury summons in August. This time she informed the court that she was breastfeeding and could not participate in jury duty at that time as well. Not long after that, Laura received another notice saying she must report to jury duty without her young son.
To Laura, a stay at home mom and primary care giver who solely breastfeeds her child, (which means her son does not even drink breast milk from a bottle) this option just did not seem viable, so she arrived in court with her son in hopes of receiving an exemption from the judge.
Much to her surprise, she did not receive an exemption, but rather she received a "contempt of court" charge along with a court date of her own. This type of charge could also bear with it a $500 fine. Although there are 12 other states in the union that do accept breastfeeding as a valid reason for exemption, Missouri is not one of them. Yet.
Like all other states there is a exemption rule that allows for "an undue or extreme physical or financial hardship". On October 21, in the Business Insider edition to the Associated Press wrote, "Jackson County Presiding Judge Marco Roldan, while declining to discuss Trickle's specific case, said breastfeeding Jackson County mothers can pump on breaks or bring someone along to care for their children and nurse on breaks." He also said "I have excused potential jurors who just had a death in the family, or teachers who were scheduled to give midterm exams."
Excuse me? With all due respect your honor, you deem teachers who are scheduled to give exams above and beyond mothers providing the sole nutrition for a child? You can and will grant their excuse of sitting and watching young people take a test, but you would require mothers to pump breast milk and hire babysitters while on your watch? AND you'd slap them with a contempt of court charge to boot if they don't comply? Really? Common sense would say that pumping breast milk and paying for childcare just might fall under "undue physical and/or financial hardship" don't you think?
Ironically, Senate Bill 87 was introduced by Senator Rob Schaff in April 2013 that would have gone into effect on August 28th had it been signed off by the Gov. Among other things, SB87 would have exempted most nursing mothers from jury duty for a period of time. For some reason, the bill was not approved, but rather the bill will need to be reintroduced during the next session. Sen Schaaf says, "Mothers should not have to sacrifice their children’s needs or worry about possible consequences for nursing in a public place or needing to excuse themselves from jury duty to nurse their children,” Sen. Schaaf also said. “Research highlights the many health benefits of breast-feeding, and, by eliminating potential barriers nursing mothers face when they need to tend to their children, mothers will feel more secure in breast-feeding their children, resulting in healthier outcomes for young ones in Missouri and saving the state money otherwise spent on children’s potential medical care.”
Until the law changes, stay at home mom, Laura Trickle and others like her in Missouri will have to comply with current jury duty regulations or also be in jeopardy of a contempt of court charge and $500 fine.
What do you think? Should one act in the best interest of your child and face potential consequences or fulfill civic duty at all cost?
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