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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.


next: Toking Up to Treat ADD
39 comments so far | Post a comment now
Michelle December 3, 2009, 1:54 PM

I am a homeschooling mom with kids who have medical special needs. And this past year was the firt time I was unable to get out of duty. You need to get a letter from your childs doctor letting the judge know that you are not making stuff up. AND that your child really needs special care.
You probably have a bench warent out for you now and being in jail will not help your kids. I know it is difficult but what you are doing is wrong. It IS breaking the law. Get the letter, go in and explain what is going on. You can your hubby or a home health nurse there for an hour or two while you get this straightened out. It will be harder now that you thumbed your nose at the judge but you might get lucky.

Anonymous December 3, 2009, 2:19 PM

What’s with all these messed up kids? Did the parents take drugs?

Anonymous December 3, 2009, 2:21 PM

BOO HOO she has to go to jury duty.

Michelle December 3, 2009, 3:13 PM

No I did not take drugs it is a genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis. My daughter now 13 has lost a kidney had several strokes, takes 12 different perscription medication and has to have her blood pressure taken 5 times a day before the meds. She also has had to have part of her Aorta replaced, gallbladder removed,and two brain surgeries just to name a few of the problems. In the past I had no one to take her blood pressure which MUST be done so I know how much and which meds to give. This past year my oldest was finally old enough to do it and stay home alone with the kids. Consider yourself lucky if you have healty kids. AND grow a pair and post your name.

GMB December 3, 2009, 3:35 PM

What, no compassion for a mom who is struggling to do her best for her children? Being a good citizen entails more than sitting in a jury box; raising healthy, well-educated children is also vital to our country’s future. Until you’ve walked a mile in this mother’s shoes…….lay off.

She is not refusing to serve jury duty. I for one would not want a juror who is worrying about a seriously ill child at home to decide my fate.

Crimson Wife December 3, 2009, 4:21 PM

I got summons for one week before my due date. My OB wrote a note confirming that I would be unable to serve on a jury due to my advanced pregnancy but I *STILL* had to go in to talk to the judge. Of course, he dismissed me right away, but it was ridiculous that I had to go at all.

Michelle December 3, 2009, 4:36 PM

I have all the compasion in the world. But she went about it the wrong way. Just not showing up can lead to bigger problems down the road. I got a letter from my kids doctor every other year for ten years. This last time they said no I had to come in. So my oldest took off work and school and stayed to help.\
Just not showing up is not right. I had no problem serving. In fact, like most stay at home moms I looked for any excuse for adult conversation. YOu know something other than kid shows and bodily functions. BUT you teach your kids there is a right way and a wrong way to do something.

me myself and I December 3, 2009, 6:27 PM

Out of concern for you kids you NEED to get this straighened out. IF you have a bench warrent out on you and you get pulled over the police can arrest you on the spot whether your kids are with you or not. Many places take this very seriously and your kids could be the ones getting hurt in the end. How would they do in foster care for a day or two? If you are concerned about thier wellbeing get this fixed.

Ursula December 3, 2009, 11:24 PM

There is something suspect about the jury system in California, period. During the seven years that I lived in the Palm Springs area, I was sent a jury summons every year. One year, I was sent two summons for two different courts at the same time. They didn’t even excuse me from one of them! They simply postponed one. To top it off, I wasn’t just summoned — I was selected as a juror every time!

I live in another state now, but I dread getting a summons because I am a SAHM, I homeschool, and we travel a great deal due to business and family. If I had to, I wouldn’t hesitate to serve because I do think we have a civic duty, and I think my husband could get the time off without losing money.

However, I resent the people who don’t understand that some of us absolutely do not use babysitters or daycare because of our beliefs (it’s nothing to do with finances — some of us just want the pleasure of raising our children ourselves).

In our case, I fought ovarian cancer at 19, was told I would never have children, and then I was blessed with the conception of our child at age 30…so I am bound and determined to enjoy every moment of being a mother.

It sucks that there are people with no family obligations and/or a flexible financial situation and would be glad to be a juror, but they never get a summons.

Anonymous December 4, 2009, 1:50 PM

Just do it

bdb December 5, 2009, 12:11 PM

Shame on you, Dee, for being so judgmental of a caring mother without considering the nature of the system which must maintain flexibility to survive. We acknowledge that people aren’t merely tools but actually human beings, many of whom have very valid reasons for not getting dragged into court to serve for an indefinite period of time, such as the sick and elderly. There are hardships for everyone, but for some more than others. Do you think it’s fair for someone to suffer far greater hardships than you to perform the same civic duty? We don’t all have the same circumstances so how can we judge others so easily, especially in these hard economic times? A little humanity will go a long way.

bdb December 5, 2009, 12:22 PM

Also, Dee, being a grown up means cultivating a healthy empathy for others. It doesn’t sound like you have the maturity to step in someone else’s shoes to understand someone else’s predicament. God help any criminal defendant with you in the jury box … he or she would probably be swinging from the gallows. Responsibility also means taking doing precisely what this mother did … take care of her child when the system could care less. I wouldn’t think much of her if she didn’t make her childrens’ needs a priority. The jury system shouldn’t benefit from the sacrifices of those with greater hardships than others so those with fewer hardships can judge them for their struggles. We judge when we fully understand and not out of ignorance.

Paul December 6, 2009, 10:05 AM

Several people have commented that it is a civic responsibility to report for jury duty, and that it would be a great lesson for the kids to see mommy serve. If things were normal, I would completely agree with that logic. However, the legal system in California, and especially in Los Angeles County, creates an overly litigious environment.

I know, because I live in L.A. County too and I have been to court, looked at the laws, and I have come to the conclusion that the trial lawyers association of California has ensured that the state laws are written in such a way as to generate as many lawsuits as possible. Those laws don’t protect anyone. They only keep lawyers fully employed, at the expense of the rest of us who are called up EVERY year for jury duty to support their sham legal system.

Candy December 7, 2009, 3:10 PM

Those who are criticizing this mother for NOT abandoning her kids obviously have never tried homeschooling multiple children, one of whom with a medical condition. My own mother was called for jury duty three times, and was only able to attend once. Why? Well, she was homeschooling four children, one with severe asthma requiring medication every two hours as well as ADHD. Affordable childcare is damn near impossible to find for more than one child, especially if they’re younger (at least in my area). She hardly neglected her civic duty by instilling a sense of family in her country’s young citizens. Here’s the standard order of loyalty: God, family, and THEN country. Don’t get it twisted people.

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