Breastfeeding and Jury Duty

December 14th, 2013

Written for the National Association of Professional Women
Springfield, Mo Local Chapter in Legal Corner Monthly Spotlight

By: Heather Rooney McBride and Danielle R. Kerckhoff

A woman in Jackson County, Missouri is facing contempt of court charges for appearing for jury duty with her seven-month-old son, who is currently breastfeeding. The woman, Laura Trickle, was initially summoned for jury duty in January of 2013 during her pregnancy. The court allowed her to delay her jury duty because of her pregnancy. In late summer of 2013, she was again summoned to jury duty. She appeared in court in September of 2013 with her seven-month-old son, hoping to get an exemption.

Rather than receiving an exemption, the Judge informed Ms. Trickle that she would need to find a caretaker for her child and could nurse her child on breaks during the trial. Jury members are paid $6/day in Jackson County.1 Ms. Trickle declined to hire a caretaker and is now facing contempt charges because she “willfully and contemptuously appeared for jury service with her child and no one to care for the child.”2 The Judge has taken the issue under advisement3, and will not rule on the contempt charges, until June 6, 2014 when the Missouri legislative session ends.

The Judge is waiting to rule because the legislature is currently considering a change to Missouri statutes to exempt nursing mothers from jury duty. Senate Bill 502 amends current Missouri Revised Statute Section 494.425 to provide that “any nursing mother, upon her request, and with a completed written statement from her physician to the court certifying she is a nursing mother”4 shall be excused from service as a juror. Currently, twelve states and Puerto Rico have laws that exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty.5

Senate Bill 502 is currently in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Health Committee. A hearing was held on the bill on February 6, 2014. It has yet to be approved by either the Senate or the House.

Missouri’s current statute allows any “person who, in the judgment of the court, is incapable of performing the duties of a juror because of mental or physical illness or infirmity” to be disqualified from serving as a juror.6 The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 502, would remove any judgment of the court to determine whether a breastfeeding mother is incapable to serve as a juror based on their status as a breastfeeding mother; the excusal would be automatic rather than at the discretion of the court.

If you are summoned for jury duty, are a breastfeeding mother, and believe that you are unable to serve due to your obligations as a mother, contact an attorney to determine whether, under current Missouri law, an application can be made to the Court to seek an excusal from service as a juror. This application typically must be made before the date you are to report for jury service, so time is of the essence once you receive a jury summons. You may also wish to contact your local state congress member to let them know of your opinion of Senate Bill 502.

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1 Juror FAQ, 16th Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, http://www.16thcircuit.org/juror-faq#courtpay (last visited February 14, 2014).

2 Order to Show Cause, In re. Trickle, No. 1316-CV25819, Cir. Ct. of Jackson Cnty., Mo. (Sept. 10, 2013).

3 Order, In re. Trickle, No. 1316-CV25819, Cir. Ct. of Jackson Cnty., Mo. (Oct. 24, 2013).

4 Mo. SB 502, 2013 S. Reg. Sess. (Mo. 2013).

5 Those states are: California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia. See California Rules of Court, Trial Court Rules, Rule 2.1006; Idaho Code § 2-212 (2002); Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 705 § 305/10.3 (2005); Iowa Code § 607A.5 (1994); Kan. Stat. Ann. § 43-158 (2006); Ky. Rev. Stat. § 29A.100 (2007); Miss. Code Ann. § 13-5-23 (2006); Mont. Code Ann. § 3-15-313 (2009); Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-1601-4 (2003); Okla. Stat. tit. 38, § 28 (2004); Or. Rev. Stat. § 10.050 (1999); 34 L.P.R.A. § 1735h (2003).

6 Mo. Rev. Stat. 494.425 (2004).

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