Sunday, April 5, 2015

Legislative Summary: RSMo. § 494.430 - Breastfeeding Mothers & Jury Service

Link to Missouri Statute

RSMo. § 494.430.1(2) provides breastfeeding mothers with an excuse from jury duty.[i]  The law was passed by the Missouri House of Representatives and the Senate and approved by Governor Nixon and delivered to the Secretary of State April 3, 2014.

I.                   Legal Background

Before the law passed, a Missouri court held Laura Trickle, a Lee’s Summit mother,
in contempt when she asked to be excused from jury duty so she could breastfeed her son.[ii]  More and more women are choosing to breastfeed their children for the health benefits it gives them and the child as well as for financial reasons (formula can cost over $1,500 a year).[iii]

Representative Rory Ellinger, one of Missouri’s most liberal representatives, introduced the bill January 13, 2014.[iv]  The bill had tremendous support and passed unanimously in the House of Representatives (150-0) and Senate (31-0).[v]  It was called to vote in the Senate immediately after it cleared public hearing.[vi]  The bill was moved quickly because Representative Ellinger was battling an aggressive form of liver cancer.[vii]  His political views did not always lead to bipartisan support, but his peers respected him highly and worked hard to pass the bill quickly so he could be present when it was signed into law.[viii]
Currently, 16 other states and Puerto Rico have similar laws, exempting breastfeeding mothers from jury duty (California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, and Virginia).[ix] 

II.                Recent Development

RSMo. § 494.430 provides a list of people that are excused from jury duty (e.g., licensed health care providers who when the absence of the provider would be a detriment to patients).[x]  Now RSMo. § 494.430.1(2) also provides an exemption for nursing mothers.[xi]  The text reads: “[a]ny nursing mother, upon her request, and with a completed written statement from her physician to the court certifying she is a nursing mother.”[xii] To this date, the addition to the statute has not yielded any controversy or court decisions.

III.             Discussion

Allowing breastfeeding as an excuse to jury duty is a positive addition to Missouri law.  A possible criticism of the text is its requirement that the mother present a written physician statement certifying she is breastfeeding.  Understandably, the courts do not want women fabricating excuses to get out of jury duty, so some type of verification is reasonable.  But it might be more convenient for the nursing mother to present a copy of the child’s birth certificate than try to arrange a meeting with her physician to obtain written certification.  Overall, RSMo. § 494.430.1(2) is a good change to the law; it is wonderful to see the legislature showing such support for the needs of Missouri mothers. 

- Liz Lafoe

[i] RSMo. § 494.430.1(2) (2014).
[ii] Diane Reese, Breastfeeding bill excuses moms from jury duty, honors ailing Missouri legislator, The Washington Post, (April 4, 2014),
[iii] Id.
[iv] Id.
[v] Id.
[vi] Id.
[vii] Id.
[viii] Id.
[ix] National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Breastfeeding State Laws (March 2, 2015),
[x] RSMo. § 494.430.1(2) (2014).
[xi] Id.
[xii] Id.