In 2011, a breastfeeding mother, Natalie Hegedus, was kicked out of court in Michigan by Judge Robert Hentchell for feeding her 5-month old child.
The mother reported being humiliated by the judge, where the following dialogue reportedly happened in court:
In the court transcript, Hentchel says “You think that’s appropriate in here?”
Hegedus responds “[I]t’s not [against the law], I have to feed my son,” and Hentchel says “Ma’am, it’s my courtroom, I decide what’s appropriate in here. [C]ome on up, okay? You have to understand that a judge — the laws don’t apply in a courtroom. [T]he judge’s law applies, do you understand that?
Judge Hentchell was not disciplined for his violation of state law allowing the mother to breastfeed anywhere she wants in public places in the State of Michigan, and for violating judicial ethics requiring the judge to follow the law and respect litigants - where the judge publicly humiliated the breastfeeding mother, calling breastfeeding inappropriate.
Instead of disciplining Judge Hentchell, his chief administrative judge, Judge Paul Hamre, reportedly said the following:
that "he didn't understand why the issue has gotten so much attention", and that
'This is abuse of the information age. A one-to-two sentence exchange has now turned into a national story,' Judge Hamre told WOODTV.
Here is the judge for whom humiliation of a breastfeeding mother in open court is not a big deal:
Judge Marco Roldan gave Laura Trickle, reportedly, two options:
"I would be able to pump on breaks. Unfortunately, Axel doesn't take a bottle, so that was not an option for us," Trickle told ABC News. "The other option was to have someone stay with me all day and then be able to nurse on breaks. But since I'm a stay-at-home mom, we don't have child care."
Reportedly, after that incident, the Missouri State Sen. Rob Schaaf, a doctor, said he started to draft legislation to exempt breastfeeding women from service.
It was actually very easy to exempt the mother from jury duty - there were two attorneys who picked her, and the judge who kept her on the jury. Three idiots. Neither one had the generosity of heart to relieve her of her duty - even for the sake of their clients, because a woman whose mind is elsewhere, on her hungry baby, is not a good and attentive juror anyway.
One of those three idiots, the judge who could easily let the mother go, instead of holding her for contempt of court for breastfeeding - is smiling here:
If judge Hentchel openly claimed that HE IS THE LAW in HIS courtroom - something I frequently heard from many judges - Judge Roldan pretended to abide by the law and wait with "making his verdict" of contempt against the breastfeeding woman.
In defense of his actions, Judge Roldan reportedly said this:
"Roldan said the court system does everything it can to help citizens with hardships. Missouri law does allow potential jurors to get a one-time postponement.
Court records show that Trickle received several postponements.
This is a comment to the 2011 episode of kicking a breastfeeding mother out of court - by an anonymous member of the public."
Please, let's not be hypocritical.
I myself saw how judges and attorneys agreed not to "inconvenience" an attorney called for jury duty.
Since 2009 I was NEVER called for jury duty - because I was married to a criminal defense attorney and was a criminal defense attorney myself. Nobody wanted me on the jury, and the allegedly "random" system of juror selection did not pick me for jury duty.
Yet, this young breastfeeding mother was picked THREE TIMES?
Give me a break.
Now, the father does have visitation rights, but couldn't they be arranged around the needs of the breastfed child?
Apparently, for the judge, it was the mother's whim to breastfeed.
That is - instead of recusing, while the judge was obviously "irritated" with the mother exposing the judge's intention.
Even though the judge claimed that he never made a RULING, he never denied he told the mother his pre-ruling OPINION about breastfeeding.
And Judge Baratta had no qualms repeating that opinion to the press:
“I don’t see how [breastfeeding]’s relevant,” Baratta said. “This case is about if a father can have visitation with his daughter. And a lactation expert will tell me that? A breast-feeding expert doesn’t belong in a custody battle between a mom and a dad, I don’t think. But I’ll read the report.”
The mother told the reporters that she felt terribly humiliated, and that such attitude discourages mothers from breastfeeding.
In 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court denied the anti-discrimination petition of Angela Ames, from Iowa, a mother who was forced out of her job for breastfeeding - affirming the lower court determination that such a constructive firing is not sexist because - gulp - "men can lactate, too" - Judge Robert W. Pratt, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Central Division, was the one who produced the "male lactate, too" masterpiece:
The decision was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit - and the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari petition.
Here is the lactating male judge.
Now, in 2016, we have a judge in North Carolina who kicked a mother out of a courtroom because she dared to breastfeed her child - uncovered - in front of him.
I looked up the public's reaction on Facebook - in comments to this particular story posted by various sources.
Most of the public, despite the existing laws, claim that the mother should have covered up.
And that she could hold off feeding her baby.
And that she is simply attention-hungry.
Well, the public sentiment can be whatever it can be - but the law is the law.
And what bothered me the most is the reaction to this story by lawyers and one "judicial assistant" on the more or less mainstream legal blog "Above the Law".
By the way - the comments that I am publishing now appeared yesterday, yesterday I saved them, today they disappeared.
Since it is a matter of public importance that lawyers - possibly, future judges - have such an opinion that the law should not be followed and that it was all right for a judge to discriminate against a breastfeeding mother in court, I will publish those comments.
Here they are, in all glory (3 comments are shown today, yesterday there were more):
Here is a Diane Troxell, a self-admitted Judicial Assistant from Illinois.
She volunteers information that, in her judge's court, the bailiff "politely" asked people to leave if they were "in any form or undress or were wearing an inappropriate attire".
Now, what "attire" is appropriate for a public courtroom?
And did the "polite bailiff" care to verify whether people who he turns out of the public courtroom had money for attire he considers "appropriate"?
And, in the context of the discussion, this "judicial assistant" considers breastfeeding as simply an act of undressing in the courtroom - nothing more. No baby. No baby's needs. No law regarding breastfeeding.
Inappropriate - period. And she calls that humiliation and violation of the law "politeness".
Here is another one.
So, this attorney's views may reflect the views of her environment in the California court system - breastfeeding in court is "weird!".
Just so Ms. Avialotis/Lewis' present and potential clients would know her views that when a judge refuses to comply with the law of the state and publicly humiliates a young mother in open court, it is the woman to blame - because her completely legal actions are "a bit ... Weird!".
Yet, this one commentator has outdone them all.
For Sherry Ane Moore, the only thing that matters is - not the state law allowing the mother to do what she did, but that she had her "tit hanging out while addressing a judge". And that was, to Sherry Ane Moore, "unacceptable".
Here is Sherry Ane Moore's Facebook profile:
Nevada attorney and officer of the court Sherry Ane Moore thinks that it was the breastfeeding mother, who followed the state law by breastfeeding her baby when and where the baby wanted to be fed, who was nevertheless wrong, not the judge who humiliated the mother in open court for following the law and taking care of her baby.
Sherry Ane Moore works in a Las Vegas law firm Zieve, Brodnax & Steele, LLP and boasts of having graduated from the University of Nevada with a Criminal Justice degree "magna cum laude" - with top grades.
Yet, this young female lawyer thinks more about how to please the judge rather than whether the judge violated the law in this context - and he did, clearly, so the question whether what the judge did was "appropriate" or "inappropriate", asked of lawyers, was a trick question - the judge clearly violated the law, what can be appropriate about it?
Here is what a member of the public said about the conduct of judge Robert Henchel, who kicked a breastfeeding mother out of "his" courtroom because of "his" rules in 2011.
I do not believe that a woman "could have handled it better" - she followed the law, and that is the beginning and the end of the issue, but I do agree that a judge may not put himself above the law.
That was, by the way, the name of the blog on which the three female attorneys explained that when judge violates the law, the litigant has to comply with it.
With all the J.D. degrees, passed bar examinations and prestigious jobs in law firms, these attorneys did not get through their heads the main thing that schoolchildren in this country are taught -
NOBODY IS OR SHOULD BE ABOVE OR BELOW THE LAW.
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