JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The House of Representatives today granted first-round approval to legislation sponsored by state Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, to require Missouri judges to excuse breastfeeding mothers from jury duty if the mother requests it. A second vote is required to send the bill to the Senate.
Ellinger filed his legislation, House Bill 1320, in response to a recent incident in which a Jackson County judge cited a Lee’s Summit woman for contempt of court and fined her $500 for bringing her breastfeeding infant with her to jury duty. The judge has placed collection of the fine on hold until the end of the legislative session to give lawmakers an opportunity to statutorily exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury service.
Ellinger recently was diagnosed with liver cancer and wasn’t present for the vote on HB 1320. State Rep. Judy Morgan, D-Kansas City, handled the bill in Ellinger’s stead. Ellinger listened to the House debate over the internet from his home.
“While jury service is an important civic obligation, Missouri law should recognize that a breastfeeding mother’s duty to her infant must take priority,” Morgan said. “Representative Ellinger has long been a defender of both the vulnerable and the legal system, and I am proud to have to opportunity to carry this legislation on his behalf.”