KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Jackson County judge has delayed a contempt of court fine against a breastfeeding mother for failing to meet her jury service duties.
At a hearing Monday morning Judge Marco A. Roldan said he would wait to make a decision in the case until the Missouri General Assembly meets again early next year.
Trickle had originally asked for and received an exemption the first time she was assigned to jury duty because she was nine months pregnant at the time.
It was a different story after she was summoned a few months later in August when she showed up in court with her then 5-month-old newborn son Axel.
She told 41 Action News that the judge said she could not have the child there and faced a fine of up to $500 for not fulfilling her jury duties. He gave her two alternatives.
“I was able to pump on breaks or nurse on breaks, but that would require a caregiver to be there all day long, or for me to leave him somewhere. But Axel doesn't take a bottle so breastfeeding is our only option," Trickle said.
Trickle said her husband couldn't have come with her to take care of their son during her summon.
She is, however, both surprised and relieved by the outcome.
"The only thing I can do is urge the supporters to contact representatives and let's make a change," Trickle said.
She's grateful for the support she's received since her story took national attention.
"It's not just for nursing mothers, it's for mothers who don't have childcare and stay at home or stay-at-home dads or people with other dependents,” she said.
Judge Roldan said in court Thursday morning that he is sympathetic to hardships families face and decided to postpone the fine.
It is legal for a mom to breastfeed in public places in the state of Missouri, but it is not considered a reason to be exempt from jury duty.
According to the Missouri state statutes, some of the many exemptions include religious reasons, physical hardships that would result in illness or disease or financial hardships. A jury supervisor said judges are the ones who make final decisions about hardships.
During the hearing Thursday, more than two dozen moms rallied outside the courthouse in support of Trickle.
“In general breastfeeding moms are not supported by the law in Missouri,” said Sunny Shaffer, one mom who rallied. “Fourteen other states, including Kansas, have laws that specifically protect breastfeeding moms."
“I think she's done the best that she can," said Lisa Matthes, a certified nurse/midwife.
Matthes said not nursing when you should, can be unhealthy and can cause a mother to get infections or mess up her milk supply.
After the Thursday hearing, State Sen. Rob Shcaaf, a doctor from St. Joseph, talked about SB 87.
He introduced the bill last year to change the law in Missouri to be more lenient toward breastfeeding moms; however, it didn’t receive enough support to pass. He now hopes with the media attention Trickle is getting, it will help him push a similar bill through the legislature early next year.
"If they would all chose to breastfeed the amount of dollars that we would have to spend on these medical problems would be less," he said.
If it is passed this next session, Roldan will be obligated under law to exempt Trickle. However, if it isn't, he will be obligated by law to charge her for contempt and she will be fined.
The Jackson County Jury Supervisor tells us this is extremely rare. Only one juror has been found to be in contempt of court in the past two years.
Judge Roldan issued this statement before the Thursday hearing:
“As a judge in Missouri, I am bound to follow Missouri law in deciding who can be
excused from jury service. The law in Missouri does not make a provision for a juror to
be automatically excused from jury service if she is breastfeeding. The law states that
jurors are to be given only one postponement for six months. The law states that a
subsequent request to postpone jury service may be approved by a judicial officer only in
the event of an extreme emergency such as a death in the family. As much as we all
value mothers who choose to breastfeed their children, the Missouri Legislature has
chosen not to allow an exemption under these circumstances. As a judge, I am obligated
to follow the law.”
Click here for the complete list of the Missouri state qualifications and exemptions for jury duty.
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