working mom

Judge Doesn’t Believe In Maternity Leave, Makes Lawyer Bring Her Infant To Court

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In news guaranteed to make any sane person’s jaw drop, lawyer Stacy M. Ehrisman-Mickle was denied a continuance she requested for an immigration hearing she was scheduled to attend. The reason for the continuance? She was still on maternity leave. She asked for an additional three weeks and opposing counsel agreed but Justice J. Dan Pelletier, Sr. felt otherwise and turned down the request. Believe it or not, this story gets even worse as Ehrisman-Mickle was forced to bring her INFANT to court with her in order to adhere to Pelletier’s refusal for a continuance.

According to Above the Law, Ehrisman-Mickle is a solo practitioner and had no one to cover for her during her maternity leave, hence, the need for a continuance. She is new to the area in which she lives and has no family nearby to assist her. Her husband was away for his job and as her baby was still under six weeks old, no daycare center would accept the infant. Left with no choice and not wanting to leave her clients without representation, Ehrisman-Mickle showed up to the hearing with her infant in tow. What followed is purely unbelievable. From Above the Law, an excerpt from her complaint on the matter:

I was forced to bring my weeks old daughter with me as day care centers do not accept infants less than 6 weeks of age and I have no family in Georgia that could help me look after my baby. … When the IJ saw me with my daughter, he was outraged. He scolded me for being inappropriate for bringing her. He questioned the fact that day care centers do not accept infants less than 6 weeks of age. He then questioned my mothering skills as he commented how my pediatrician must be appalled that I am exposing my daughter to so many germs in court. He humiliated me in open court.

Keep in mind, Pelletier was the one who said she had “no good cause” for the continuance, specifically, because the “hearing date was set prior to counsel accepting the representation.” So, being less than six weeks from the birth of her child and having no one able to watch the baby is “no good cause”? What was the alternative- leaving her clients without an attorney? Giving the baby to a random person on the street, or maybe leaving her in the car? I’m sorry, but where in the world is Pelletier coming from? He denies a perfectly reasonable request for a continuance and insists the hearing go on as scheduled. Ehrisman-Mickle is unable to make a babysitter materialize out of thin air to trust with her weeks’ old infant and is forced to take the child with her. To me, this should have been a moment of truth for Pelletier where he realized the error of his prior decision and apologized to her and then, postponing the hearing as he should have to begin with.

This is truly sick and my heart goes out to this woman. Having been a working mother myself, I understand the pull of home and your job but fortunately, I never experienced anything this extreme. I can’t imagine how embarrassed Ehrisman-Mickle must have been having her parenting criticized in open court, only weeks after becoming a mother.

However, I was heartened after reading the full text of Ehrisman-Mickle’s complaint against Pelletier, particularly, the below passage:

No, child birth should not be considered a “minor inconvenience,” and no, women lawyers should not be forced to “stop practicing law upon becoming pregnant” in order to fulfill their purported roles as servile housekeepers to please old-fashioned judges. Women lawyers should not be forced into situations like this just because they live in one of the countries with the worst accommodations for working mothers in the world. At some point, we need to recognize that those who are bringing new life into this world — while at the same time juggling demanding careers in the law — deserve a much-needed break.

Standing ovation. I love how she smacks down the old school ways of the field of law and reminds us all that every woman is deserving of a REAL maternity leave where they can focus on their baby before heading back to work. Over several conversations with our own Megan Zander, former attorney and current stay-at-home mom, I have heard how tough it is for female lawyers to make it at all in such a male-dominated field. It is even harder if a female lawyer has a baby, as you can see from this outrageous example. Women in every field of work deserve a decent maternity leave without concern that they are jeopardizing their career. I hope Ehrisman-Mickle’s plight going public serves as a warning bell for the old-school crew who cause these kinds of situations for working women everywhere.

(Image: sergign/Shutterstock)