Monday, June 25, 2007

Breastfeeding and Jury Duty

Last week, my beloved wife Jocelyn got a notice in the mail with what are perhaps -- when juxtaposed -- the two most dreaded words in the English language:


No problem, I thought: Surely a nursing mother of a two-month old baby can't be made to serve jury duty.

Imagine my surprise, then, after learning -- assuming the information I found is accurate -- that only five U. S. states currently have laws exempting nursing mothers from jury duty.

And, as luck would have it, Illinois isn't one of them.

I thought to myself: What kind of soviet are we living in?

Apparently, there is currently a nursing mothers exemption law "pending" here in the Land of Lincoln, but given the Ent-like speed with which pending legislation becomes actual legislation, the 17-year cicadas might be back again before we see a law on the books.

We had already had a doctor's appointment scheduled for our newborn this past Saturday, so Jocelyn asked our doctor what she should do. He made some comment that it's "ridiculous" to expect a nursing mother to serve jury duty, and gave her a note -- which, per the cliché about doctors and handwriting, neither of us can manage to decipher! -- to pass on to the powers-that-be excusing her from serving.

All that said, my guess -- and it is only a guess; mind you, I have exactly no legal training -- is this:

Even if a state doesn't have a law exempting nursing mothers from jury duty, it's extremely unlikely that a nursing mother -- even if she did not have a letter from her doctor -- would, in actuality, be compelled to be separated from her child and report for jury duty.

In other words, my guess is that even if a state doesn't have such an exemption law, the courts in said state aren't likely to bother going through the hassle of compelling a nursing mother to serve.

I'll admit I'm very much shooting from the hip here, so if I'm all wet on this, please feel free to enlighten me.

(Cross-posted at Catholic Dads)


Matthew S said...

hopefully she can get a delay of duty with a doctor's note. I would approach it that way instead of trying to get out of it and I would have her go in person (WITH THE BABY) to the jury clerk.

Under the Mercy,

Matthew S

Anonymous said...

Matthew's suggestion seems pretty good. Turning up with the baby will give them something to think about!

I was called up for jury duty once (in Tasmania) and any mother could get an exemption IIRC.

Anonymous said...

It's always frightened me. i'm not sure what the UK situation is..but i've never been called..thankfully..

God bless

Anonymous said...

Just added your blog to my links!

Anthony Thompson said...

I agree with the folks who suggested requesting a delay, not a straight excuse.

I hope this works out for Jocelyn and you guys...I know that I would never want her on a jury in one of my cases...I think she'd probably heckle me from the jury box.

John Jansen said...

I know that I would never want her on a jury in one of my cases...I think she'd probably heckle me from the jury box.


I'd be disappointed if she didn't heckle you.


I appreciate the advice, y'all. As a post script to this episode, I should let you know that I called an attorney we know, and he's already made a call, the end result of which is that Jocelyn doesn't have to report next month, but may be called again at some future date.

My guess is this is what is meant by a "delay" -- although I prefer to think of it more as punting.

(Mrs. Jackie Parkes, thanks for the link!)