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Mom Ordered to Jail for Taking Kids to Jury Duty

By sandymaple |

gavel-sm250When Carmela Khury got called up for jury duty, she probably wasn’t thrilled.  But the Rochester Hills, Michigan woman did what she had to do and arranged child care for her two young children so she could fulfill her civic duty.  But when, on the second day of jury selection in a murder trail, Khury found herself unexpectedly without a babysitter, she again did what she had to do:  She phoned the court clerk and informed him of the situation.

While Khury might have expected to be excused from jury duty under the circumstances, she was not.  The court clerk told her that if she didn’t show up, she’d be arrested.  

Now, that reaction is not all that surprising.  The courts know that some people hate the idea of jury duty so much that they will do just about anything to avoid it.  But Khury wasn’t telling a story and dutifully showed up that morning with her 8-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter in tow.

But that’s where things took a surprising turn.  Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Leo Bowman excused Khury from participating, but ordered her to return every day to observe the entire trial, which could go on for several weeks.  And if that wasn’t punishment enough, he also sentenced her to spend 24 hours in jail for contempt of court after the end of the trial.

For two days, Khury complied with the judge’s orders, observing the court proceedings while her mother took care of her children. But when Deborah Green, an official with the State Court Administrative Office got wind of the situation, she put an end to the nonsense.  Informing him that he had overstepped his authority, she ordered Judge Bowman to release Khury.  He did, but not before lecturing the 37-year-old mother like a naughty child and questioning whether she’d learned her lesson.

Apparently, this judge has a bit of reputation for being on tough on all potential jurors, not just parents.  But this situation does raise a few valid questions.  Should parents get special treatment when it comes to being excused from jury duty?  Or, as some suggest, should the courts provide child care for parents serving on juries?

Image: Brymo/Flickr

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18 thoughts on “Mom Ordered to Jail for Taking Kids to Jury Duty

  1. JCF says:

    I don’t think there’s necessarily a great answer to that question, but I do think that jury duty can put an undue hardship on parents. If you don’t have family in town (I don’t), and you don’t normally use day care or other child care provider (I don’t), it can be expensive and extremely difficult to find appropriate child care for days on end. I honestly have no idea what I’d do if I had to serve on a trial that lasted longer than a couple of days–and even that length of time would be hard.

  2. Alicia says:

    I thikn that they should provide childcare if they require you to be there

  3. GP says:

    As I said on the NYT comments, not everyone is going to be comfortable with leaving their children in a drop-in courthouse care center without any benefit of having interviewed the staff or any other kind of checks. I certainly would not and my child would definitely not be comfortable in a situation like that, at the drop of a hat. Primary care-givers of pre-school (or other dependents, such as special needs kids or the elderly) should be exempt. I didn’t even leave my kid in preschool, or with a babysitter til she was older than 2, so I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable leaving her at some courthouse daycare out of the blue. This case is beyond ridiculous.

  4. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    First, I think the judge is a jerk. Second, while the civic duty is important, I think the courts can and should take into consideration the situations where people who cannot serve on a jury for a lengthy period of time.

  5. jenny tries too hard says:

    How weird. Texas isn’t known for family-friendly policies, but when they send out the notice/questionnaire for jury duty, if you check off the box that says you are primary caregiver for a child under 10, you dont even have to show up. You mail it in, with some identifying info (I sent a xerox of my one of the kids birth certificates) and they mail you back a letter that says, essentially, thanks, we’ll call you again in three years.

  6. Diane says:

    It’s been my and my friends’ experience here in Louisiana that we, as primary caregivers of small children not in school or day, can be exempt from jury duty. We have explained the situation and haven’t had to serve. I can’t believe that my crooked backwards home state is actually progressive in some way!

  7. PlumbLucky says:

    Well…living near there, this judge has quite a reputation indeed (he threatened to fine and jail a small business owner who would have basically gone under had he served jury duty – sole proprietor) and has been slapped a few times by the SCAO. And considering the trial in question (google “Rib Rack Trial Detroit and see if you get any hits) it was likely to go on and on and on so I really find that ridiculous. I’m also not certain that the Oakland Co. Circuit Court even has a drop off child care center, just for grins (if anyone knows or can find something on that…I looked but got nothing!). Michigan doesn’t exempt primary caregivers of young children nor nursing mothers…sure seems like those shouldn’t HAVE to be pointed out and should fall into the realm of “be a freaking human”, but doesn’t always work that way. Khury’s mother was recovering from oral surgery, and her alternate sitter fell through. What the heck else was she supposed to do?

  8. BNE says:

    That’s ridiculous. Caring for a child not yet in school should allow you to postpone duty. The juror wouldn’t be great anyway, if he/she is worried about their child the whole time.

  9. Leigh says:

    The courthouse in my county has a child care center in it. You can drop your child off for an hour or all day if you have to report for a case or for jury duty. I’ve tour it and while small, it looked nicer than the one I pay to send my son to. They even have a walled in outdoor area for the kids to play. I think it is a great solution, but it still doesn’t help when your child is sick.

  10. Citizen Mom says:

    It would be nice if courts could provide daycare, but that cost taxpayer money – something few cities, counties, or states can afford. Even if people using it help pay, that wouldn’t cover all the expenses of running one.
    That being said, I don’t think putting moms in jail is a good use of taxpayer money either.
    When I got called for jury duty (in Michigan) a co-worker of mine told me that he just ignored his last summons and nothing happened to him. Now, I’m not advocating doing that. I just think it’s ironical that this mom tried to her best to do her civic duty and was punished for it.

  11. [...] Mom Ordered to Jail for Taking Kids to Jury Duty [...]

  12. Rosana says:

    I do not have family or friends that could be close enough for me to leave my kids with them, soooooo if my husband is on a business trip and I cannot find a way to get my son in a different daycare, I will spending time in jail, just like Khury. And yes, I will think that the judge is an idiot too.

  13. Miki Speed says:

    I’m a SAHM. I don’t “do” childcare, daycare, or babysitters outside of family or close friends. We sacrificed my income so that I could BE at home. If I had no family (since I’m an only and all the in-laws hols regular jobs), and my elderly mother could try, but might be unable due to health issues without warning- what am I supposed to do? I won’t use strangers, that’s for sure, so even court-appointed day care isn’t going to work.
    I have done jury duty in the past when my mother was healthier- and will be MORE tan willing to do it again when the children are old enough to let themselves in and care for themselves after school until I arrive. But now? Nope.

  14. SagePixie says:

    raising well adjusted children IS MY CIVIC DUTY right now and I’m doing it; when I’m done with that THEN I can serve jury duty

  15. Roddma says:

    I don’t agree with what the judge. She showed up as asked and it was unfair. This may not be a popular opinion butI feel lack of child care isnt really a valid reason to miss more than once. there are those who really have to miss like students, elderly in bad health,some disabled, illness/ death in family and business owners. It singles out those who cant have children or dont want them. They cant use the child care excuse. My husbands elderly aunt and uncle got jury last year and his aunt was to have surgery. It would be unfair to make them serve. Luckily they got excused. I got summoned at the same time but excused because of medical reasons. I have no kids and this isnt animosity toward anyone. We have too miss too sometimes.Judges should be ore understanding in this day and time.

  16. Purple_Kangaroo says:

    This article left out the very important detail that this mom was also 20 minutes late for jury duty. She was supposed to be there at 9AM and showed up at 9:20.

  17. Tom Shields says:

    Comments I have been a commissioner of jurors in Ohio for thirty years. Ohio has family friendly statutes that allow parents to be excused which is obviously common sense. We still maintain good demographic representation and good reporting percentages.

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