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Breastfeeding Mom in Maryland Could Face Jail Time for Postponing Jury Duty

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When I was about 36 weeks pregnant with our first baby, I had to go to court for jury duty. I waddled my way into the courthouse and settled uneasily into the wooden bench. Fortunately, the lawyers took one look at me and let me go. Wise decision, I believe. Had they picked me, I would have had to raise my hand every hour to go to the bathroom.
Before that day, I had considered postponing my jury duty until after the baby was born. But I soon realized that didn’t make sense since I was planning to work from home and breastfeed. Without a full-time sitter, jury duty would have been near impossible. I had served on a week-long trial once before, so I knew what I was in for.
Given the challenges of breastfeeding and serving jury duty, there are twelve states that actually exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty (California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia). Click here to learn about the laws in your state.
So it’s a bit of a surprise to see what’s happened to a Maryland mom. A judge sentenced her to a night in jail or a $150 fine, after she asked to postpone her jury duty. Here’s the story from one of the local TV stations:
Elizabeth Jett’s baby boy Henry was less than 12 weeks old when she was called for jury duty. “I think it’s a case of priorities. Taking care of your children should be your first priority. Jury duty can always come later,” Jett said.
Jett asked to postpone and serve during the Summer, when Henry would be older and her mother, a full-time teacher, could take care of him and his five-year-old brother.
The Carroll County judge said Jett was in contempt of court, which Jett thought was unbelievable. “I was just shocked. I couldn’t even put it into words,” she said.
Legislation that would allow nursing mothers with children under the age of two to be excused from jury duty was introduced for the second time. When the plan was proposed in 2004, many lawmakers shot it down.
Brian Frosh, Chair for the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said the law would cause more people to try to postpone their duties, “If you start saying, we’re gonna excuse people for breastfeeding, you’ve gotta say ok to kidney dialysis, chemotherapy and all the other maladies that afflict the human condition.”
Frosh said the law already gives judges broad discretion to excuse residents from jury duty, “So what we want is for judges to use their discretion liberally.”
As for Elizabeth Jett, she has since asked for a waiver, because she can’t afford the fine. The judge in the case, Barry Hughes, did not want to comment. The jury commissioner hung up on Andrea McCarren, as soon as she identified herself as a reporter.

Click on this link to watch the video from the TV station. You can read more about this story from the Baltimore Examiner.