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.
Laura Trickle, who says her 7-month-old son doesn’t take a bottle and has to be with her to eat, has a court hearing set for Thursday. If found in contempt, she could be ordered to pay a fine of up to $500 and even face arrest, The Kansas City Star reported.
Trickle, who lives in Lee’s Summit, a Kansas City suburb, first received a jury duty notice in January but received a postponement because she was pregnant. She informed court officials she was breastfeeding when she received another summons in August, though she was told she must report to court and find a caregiver for her son.
But when she showed up in September, she brought along her son, Axel, hoping the judge would grant an exemption. Instead she received a court order saying 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 declined to discuss Trickle’s case, but he said breastfeeding mothers can pump or nurse on breaks or bring someone along to care for their children when serving as jurors.
But Trickle noted that her son doesn’t take a bottle. She said she doesn’t have a child care provider because she’s a stay-at-home mom.
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, Roldan 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.
Breastfeeding women in neighboring Kansas are exempted from jury duty, as they are in 11 other states. Legislation introduced by Sen. Rob Schaaf, a physician in St. Joseph, 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,” Schaaf said. “Jury duty is a roadblock to that.