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Jury Duty: Leave the Kids Home Alone?

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Apparently one judge thinks I can just leave 'em at home with the TV and a bowl of water.

woman at jury duty thinking of kids

Homeschool Mom: The Superior Court of Los Angeles thinks child care is no reason not to serve.

I have never served jury duty -- not because I'm a shirker, but because by the time I had become a citizen of this great nation, I already had two kids under 5 at home and I was the primary caretaker. Great -- until this year. A couple of months ago, I got my summons, and so I wrote in to be excused.

Here's the thing. I have two kids at home with me as I homeschool, and one of my children happens to have cystic fibrosis, which is a genetic disease that requires quite a bit of extra care. My husband and I have found our child is healthier and her care is less stressful if she can do her school at home and then do extracurricular things in the afternoon. Since I'm already at home, we homeschool the first grader as well, because it's nice to do things together. Great, except the Superior Court of Los Angeles says homeschooling, even if you have a kid with fragile health, is not a reason to be excused from jury duty. They said my request was denied and I would have to report.

Well, this is the day that I am supposed to be reporting. Notice how I am not sitting in jury duty, but sitting at my computer blogging. That's because my daughter just got out of the hospital on Saturday and she is on home IV treatment, and I have nowhere and no one with whom to leave her for five hours while I am at jury duty. I am her primary caretaker and I am trained to administer her medicine, and I am not leaving my child.

I rationalize it quite easily. There are all kinds of people right now who would be great candidates for jury duty. I am not one. People out of work, retired, people who hate their jobs and would enjoy a few days off. When my kids are able to care for themselves, I will be happy to serve.

I am really bugged that the Los Angeles Superior Court does not take into consideration a person's personal right to care for their own child in the manner (said person myself) sees fit. I would have to find a babysitter that could administer meds and who could do her schoolwork with her. The only person who could do that is my husband, and he has a job and was already called for his own jury duty. Do they expect moms who cannot find childcare to leave their progeny at home on their own? Should we crate them like puppies until we get back? Then you have a choice between trouble with children's services or the judicial system. Now I am going to be a fugitive from justice, but unlike those really cool anti-heroes, I'm going in my minivan with my three kids.

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39 comments so far | Post a comment now
PlumbLucky December 3, 2009, 4:44 AM

Asinine on the part of the system where you live. Where I live, you’d probably be excused with no further questions. I was excused as I was BFing. My husband was excused when he was our sole source of income a few years back as I was unemployed (his company did NOT pay for days taken for jury duty).

If she weren’t in fragile health, I’d recommend taking the kids with you to prove a point. As she is in fragile health, would a written doctor’s statement declaring what her needs are and how meds are to be administered etc. be something that might help you out?

Anonymous December 3, 2009, 5:53 AM

I remember one year my mom got out of serving because she was a sahm and cared of my stepbrother who has ceribal palsy (sp?). I don’t blame you for staying home, I would too. You live in one crazy state.

maeby December 3, 2009, 7:10 AM

screw em. you have a perfectly good reason not to go. tell the state to make child care cheaper and to pay for a nurse and then you can go.

homemom3 December 3, 2009, 7:38 AM

I got it twice and felt horrible, first time though I was breastfeeding our newborn. Second time it was just me with our three children, I was pregnant and husband was serving in Iraq. I explained I also drove very little. the first time I didn’t drive at all and we had one car which the husband needed for work.

I think with your circumstances you should’ve been excused. Like the other commenter you could’ve appeared with your child to prove the point.

Dee December 3, 2009, 7:44 AM

Shame on you. You could have used this as a lesson for children on civic duty. All you gave is a bunch of excuses to justify your stance. You taught your children they you are above the law and that civic duty is not important. You failed this parent test in my book. Also, as a parent you need a plan. Who takes care of your other child while you are at the hospital. Plan ahead and train someone to help you. Your kids are worth it.

Rita December 3, 2009, 7:54 AM

@dee that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. She’s doing a damn good job as a parent. I believe most courtrooms don’t allow children inside, anyways.

In Texas, if you are caring for a small child or elderly, you are excused. If you don’t have transportation, you are excused. And its illegal for businesses not to pay for days taken off for jury duty.

Some people just don’t understand.

Dee December 3, 2009, 8:08 AM

Rita, being a grown up means you have civic responiblity. Having a back up plan is as a parent is smart. I never suggested that she take the kids to court. I suggested she teach them how the judicial system should work. Having a jury of ones peers is important. I am sure she has a babysitter for date night or Moms club. Grow up and have a plan in place for other important events. God help her if she or husband were in an accident ect if she does not have a plan. Training someone to help her is smart. It is what responible parents do.

Jay December 3, 2009, 8:30 AM

If you think the judge did something wrong or was unacceptably unfair, California has an agency that might be able to look into it:

It’s the California Commission on Judicial Performance.

Pam December 3, 2009, 9:00 AM

With her daughter just coming home from the hospital the only place for her to be with her children was home with her children.

Jen December 3, 2009, 9:24 AM

This article just irritates me to no end, being an American Citizen means it is your civil duty to report for jury services. It is one a privileges of being a citizen. It is a right for any individual to have a jury by trail. I agree with Dee, it sounds like you made a bunch of excuses just so can justify not reporting for jury duty. If you can’t make in that time, most courts in the State of California will give you a postponement for a later time, so you can make arrangements to have someone care for your children. Another thing, that irritates me is if you would have showed up like asked. When the judge asks the jurors if there any reason why they can’t serve on a jury, you would have explained your current situation of caring for a sick child and that it would be a hardship for your family. I guarantee you that the judge would have excused you and thanked you for showing up. And guess what, your obligation to serve as a juror would have been done for a year. Why do people want all the rights of being a citizen of the United States but none of the duties?

chris December 3, 2009, 9:44 AM

I personally would LOVE to sit as a jurist. I have been called up 3 times. Twice I didn’t even step foot in the courtroom because when I called the phone number the night before my number group wasn’t selected to come in. The last time I went and sat in to hear the case but after all the questions by the judge I wasn’t selected. Oh Well maybe some day :-) and trust me I understand that a lot of people aren’t like me and don’t want to serve but I really agree with the fact that it is your civil duty and you really should have a backup plan for your child during the day just in case of any kind of emergency.

Pamala December 3, 2009, 10:16 AM

So says people who probably have perfectly healthy children.

I served jury duty because I wasn’t excused. I got my hubby to work from home that day, even though his work was pissed about it.

But you know what, had he not be able to, I would have skipped it in a second. I’m not about to hire a sitter to care for my child when they have no knowledge of her disorder.

And guess what, I don’t go out on Mom’s Nights Out or date nights, because my child has an illness. I know odd, isn’t it.

PlumbLucky December 3, 2009, 10:41 AM

@Rita - that’s not entirely true, that its illegal for businesses to not pay you for jury duty days. There is no federal law stating such, it depends in which state you live.

As my husband was considered “hourly” and not “salaried”, he was not paid for hours not worked.

They cannot punish you by firing you, docking you further hours, threatening your job, etc. That is federal law.

PlumbLucky December 3, 2009, 10:47 AM

California has some interesting things in place, I wonder if any of them apply?

Barb December 3, 2009, 11:27 AM

I lean toward Dee and Jen’s points—we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to be jurors. And just because you’re a stay-at-home mom doesn’t excuse you. It’s probably inconvenient for most people (to lose money while not working, or get very behind on work, etc.), but I wholeheartedly agree with Jen’s statement: “Why do people want all the rights of being a citizen of the United States but none of the duties?”

Dee December 3, 2009, 12:18 PM

As a matter of fact, my youngest daughter has severe asthma. I have spent more than my fair share of time in hospitals. I also show up when called for Jury duty. I also maintain a relationship with my husban. Why, because I trained my mom and sister to help with needed. I have also trained one of my friends college age daughter to administer breathing treatments. I strive for my daughter to have as normal of childhood as possible. I learned how important it was to have help. You can’t do it all yourself.

Anonymous December 3, 2009, 12:27 PM

write to the state senate, governor, county mayor, etc. make them aware of these unfairness.

Berniece December 3, 2009, 12:33 PM

Jury duty must be performed by people who want to do and are very willing to participate….Those are the only people who should do this. In certain countries they have a terrific system where they screen interview and choose people who volunteer and are willing participants….They are always called and they do not have all the nonsense that America has….

usa all the way December 3, 2009, 12:40 PM

Yeah Berniece, America sucks…you should go and live somewhere else.

Berniece December 3, 2009, 12:43 PM

I forgot to mention that not wanting to serve as a juror does not make you a bad citizen or undeserving of citizenship. This is what the system would have you feel or believe. Lots of people I know that serve on juries are hardly good citizens or people. Stupid system….

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