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Mother files complaint, says while she was at Daley Center for jury duty, staff sent her to men’s room to pump breast milk

Monday, April 23, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Morgan Greene

She was summoned to jury duty at the downtown Daley Center courthouse, but the Chicago attorney and mother to a newborn said she couldn’t fulfill her civic duty because there was no private place to pump breast milk.

So Judith Miller filed a discrimination complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, a possible precursor to a lawsuit against the Cook County court system.

Miller, an assistant clinical professor of law in the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, was “excited about the possibility of serving on a jury” when she was summoned last fall because her work as an attorney offers “a unique perspective on the importance of juries,” according to the complaint filed with the state human rights office. As the breastfeeding mother of an 11-week-old, she had also done her homework to make sure she could pump milk when she reported for jury service Oct. 2.

According to the complaint, Miller checked the Circuit Court of Cook County website before her jury date for information on the Daley Center’s lactation room. Upon arrival, Miller followed the site’s instructions and contacted a court clerk about using the facility.

Miller says the clerk could not locate the room and told her she could use the men’s restroom because the women’s restroom did not have an electrical outlet, required for Miller’s breast pump.

At the time of her jury date, Miller needed to pump breast milk or nurse every three hours to maintain milk supply.

Miller says the clerk called Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ office about the matter but received no response. After several hours passed, the clerk excused her from jury duty. Miller left the courthouse and didn't serve.

Miller detailed her experience at the Daley Center in a Tribune op-ed published in recent months. "Little did I know that I’d have no chance at being on the jury,” Miller wrote in the opinion piece. "Not because I’m an attorney, and not because I’m a law professor, but because I’m a nursing mother."

It’s unclear whether there was some kind of communication breakdown. A spokesman for Evans says that all Office of Jury Administration rooms, where prospective jurors report, have private space available for nursing mothers. At the Daley Center, a private lactation room is available on the fourth floor.

Other courthouses have private rooms in the children’s rooms that are available to members of the public who are nursing mothers.

“It would have been a reasonable accommodation to make the space available,” said Amy Meek, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “She was there, and she wanted to serve, and it’s your civic duty to be able to access a courthouse and serve on a jury.”

Twitter @morgreene

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