LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. -- A breastfeeding Missouri mother has been charged with contempt of court after refusing to leave her son behind for jury duty.
The Kansas City Star reports that Laura Trickle has a hearing set for Thursday in Jackson County Circuit court. People found to be in contempt of court can be ordered to pay a fine of up to $500 and may even be arrested.
Trickle, of Lee’s Summit, said her 7-month-old son, Axel, doesn’t take a bottle and has to be with her to eat.
She first received a jury duty notice in January and received a postponement because she was pregnant. She informed court officials she was breastfeeding when she received another summons in August. But she soon received notice that she must report to court and find a caregiver for her son.
When she showed up in September, however, she brought Axel along, hoping the judge would grant an exemption. Instead she received a court order that said she “willfully and contemptuously appeared for jury service with her child and no one to care for the child.”
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.
But Trickle noted that her son doesn’t take a bottle, and because she’s a stay-at-home mom, she doesn’t have a child care provider.
Trickle, one of two breastfeeding Jackson County women who have recently faced possible penalties for not serving jury duty, said it’s not that she isn’t willing.
“The issue is the timing,” she said. “I just can’t do it right now.”
Missouri statutes allow for exemptions when a juror would face “an undue or extreme physical or financial hardship,” and Roldan said he has exercised that discretion. On some occasions as a trial judge, he said, he has excused potential jurors who just had a death in the family, or teachers who were scheduled to give midterm exams.
While keeping some jurors, he often has sought to accommodate their needs, he said.
“Providing a room for mothers to breastfeed or pump is good, and we very much encourage that,” said Anne Biswell of the Mother & Child Health Coalition, which promotes wellness in the Kansas City area.
But Biswell also has been tracking legislation that will be reintroduced in the next session and would exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty in Missouri.
“Babies who are breastfed generally are healthier, are less likely to have certain health problems and will cost the state less resources,” said state Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph, a physician. “Jury duty is a roadblock to that.”