Indiana Hall of Shame

(Last updated

August 28, 2005)


Mary N., a breastfeeding mother of a young infant, received a Jury Summons and Questionnaire from Dearborn County Superior Court  in Indiana in July 2005. 

When Mary respectfully requested to be excused due to her current circumstances as a nursing mother and sole-caregiver of her baby, she and her child were subjected to blatant abuse by the Dearborn County Superior Court. Here is Mary’s story:

“I completed the Jury Summons and hand delivered it to (the) bailiff.  I asked her what else needed to be done (to be excused from having to serve jury duty).  The bailiff asked why I felt that way, and I explained to her that I am breastfeeding exclusively.  She (rudely informed) me,  ‘Breastfeeding is not a valid excuse.  We have had other breastfeeding mothers on jury duty.  They've made arrangements and you'll have to do so also’

I explained that my daughter doesn't take a bottle, and she also did not tolerate formula, even soy-based.  I asked if I could have someone care for her while in court and step out to feed her as needed.  At that point in the conversation, she became extremely rude and told me ‘If you bring that infant here with you, we will call children's services and have her removed and you will be held in contempt of court, fined and possibly jailed.  Its been done before.’ (She later in the day, reiterated the statement by saying, ‘Children's services will take her for the day, and then after you pay them for her care, you'll be able to take her home’).

When I asked her how I would go about speaking to the judge, she replied "YOU DON’T!"

Later that afternoon, I called back to find out who I should direct letters from our physicians to, she was extremely rude, and hung up on me after I again asked for an appointment to speak with the Judge.

She told the Judge that I am refusing Jury duty, which is not true.  I received a letter from him yesterday, stating that any further perseverance on my part will be construed as interference with the jury process and I will be held in contempt of court.

I have written to the Judge, with emphasis on the health impact a separation could make (excerpt: I am concerned in my ability to perform jury duty as this may directly effect mine and my child's health. Due to the medication I am on for diabetes, as well as nursing, it is necessary to eat and drink frequently throughout the day.
As I stated, my daughter nurses every 2 to 3 hours. If my child does not nurse and I am unable to express/pump this could pose a health risk to myself, as engorgement could lead to breast infections and abscess. There is also the consideration of leaking breast milk in such a situation. To avoid this, I would have to leave to pump breast milk as frequently as she normally eats, every two hours.
I am also concerned for the nutritional well being of my daughter since at this time, she is unable to suck effectively on a bottle. Supplementing could also cause her to become ill, as her body is not accustomed to formula, and in the past, has made her ill

...I have been made to feel as though I am a criminal by the Bailiff and Judge, all for wanting to feed my baby.  It is obvious to myself, my family, and her doctor that she is thriving on breast milk.  I am strongly against supplementing with formula when I have seen what it has done to her previously (i.e., vomiting). 

I have been trying to pump, to be a few bottles ahead, but have only produced an ounce.  My daughter nurses every 2 hours throughout the day and if I pump in the early mornings, she is very frustrated.  With my diabetes, I have to watch my carbohydrate intake, along with oral medications, and we had reached an equal supply and demand balance. 

As my husband is currently away (recently returned from Middle East during the Iraq war, and is now in GA for school until December) I am the sole caregiver and currently a stay-at-home mother.  I have never had to leave her for any length of time so this whole situation is very frightening.  I just cannot believe that the courts would demand a nursing mother leave her baby.  

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