June 7, 2019
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Jennifer L. Feld | August 7, 2018
My first five-day jury trial was four weeks after I returned from maternity leave. I knew I had to allot time for pumping, but I was not sure about the proper procedure. As I now gear up for my second jury trial, I decided to dictate this article to Siri (while pumping, nonetheless) so other new mothers might have some guidance.
While I am lucky enough to practice in Palm Beach County, which has a beautiful lactation room, it is only accessible after 8 a.m. Even then, the room must be opened by a trial court administration employee. In the past, for UMC hearings, I was able to plan ahead and meet the administrative assistant at the lactation room right at 8 a.m., pump, and still make it to an 8:45 a.m. hearing. She was even kind enough to come in early at 7:45 a.m. on a few days when I had earlier special set hearings.
For trial, this is simply not practical. The room itself is on the fourth floor of the courthouse, which is a solid 10-minute elevator ride/walk from the civil courtroom where my case was being tried. Add on 20 to 30 minutes for the pump itself, plus set up and clean up, and I would have be away from the courtroom for almost an hour. I recommend you contact the bailiff to reserve one of the conference rooms next to the courtroom where your case will be held. Note: Do not leave your milk or pump in this room, as only certain bailiffs have the keys, and you will have to leave it unlocked between sessions. (Don’t worry. You can lock the door from the inside while you’re in there.)
Next, you should file a motion for trial accommodations. As much as I dreaded attending the UMC hearing on this Motion, I found it to be necessary. First of all, the average new mother has to pump milk every three to four hours. The trial order for my first case set trial starting at 8:15 a.m. The first break would not be until lunchtime, nearly four hours later. I had no objection from opposing counsel, but there is no other way to amend a trial order other than to request this relief in writing. The substance of the motion is simple. Here’s an example of what I wrote: “This case is currently set for trial on ____ date. Undersigned counsel recently returned from maternity leave. For medical reasons, counsel requests trial accommodations and an amendment to the trial order. Counsel may be required to leave the courtroom during the trial and may require a juror recess.” Thus far, every one of my motions has been granted. However, on the off chance that one of yours is denied, you will be glad that you filed that motion because you will have some form of recourse.
Let’s say you are trying your case with a partner, and you will be able to call your witnesses around your pump schedule. If you’re going to be leaving the courtroom for any reason while the jury is still present, you may want to think about requesting a specific jury instruction. I simply requested that the judge advise the jury that attorneys may be coming and going from the courtroom during the trial and that this is normal practice. The jurors are not to think anything one way or another about an attorney leaving the courtroom during testimony.
During my first trial post-maternity leave, my partner and I decided to call one of our witnesses out of order. In other words, we called a defense witness during the plaintiff’s case. This particular witness was not appearing live, and had instead appeared via video for trial. I was able to leave to pump during the video, while my partner stayed in the courtroom. If this is a possibility for you, make sure to confer in advance with both opposing counsel and the judge, to confirm that you are permitted to call witnesses out of order.
You maybe wondering about logistics. How do I store my milk? What do I do with the pump? Every morning, I pack two bags: a pump bag and a lunchbox. I carry my pump in a nondescript black vinyl bag. Inside, I keep the pump itself with all of the parts in a large gallon-sized Ziploc bag. I have a small towel, a pumping bra, and pack of Medela wipes (for when you do not have access to a sink). I also have a small cooler that fits inside my black bag, with enough empty bottles to last the entire day, and two ice packs.
I pack a lunch every day because inevitably my lunch break will also be a pump session. This also allows me to pack a few extra ice packs in case I need to supplement my milk cooler.
The first few times I entered the courthouse, I separated my cellphone and keys, but I didn’t think twice about my pump. Sure enough, it set off the X-ray on the conveyor belt. The entire bag was taken apart. Unless you want your breast pump handled by a bunch of strangers, you should remove the mechanical device before you put your bag on the conveyor belt.
Some courthouses require you to drink or throw away liquids, such as water bottles, before you enter. Liquids should not be an issue because you are only leaving with milk. You are entering with empty bottles.
The plan I have laid out above simply cannot be done without supportive partners, at home and at work. My amazing, encouraging husband, who is also a lawyer, literally cheers me on during my middle-of-the-night pumps, and has washed hundreds of bottles by hand at this point. My top-notch, incredibly accommodating firm made it easy to return to work. My talented (male) trial partner and mentor could not have been more understanding. The judiciary, the court, and opposing counsel were all so cooperative. To all of you, I thank you. I truly appreciate it, and so does my son.
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