A judge in Fresno, CA is under fire after making critical comments to two potential jurors who asked to be excused from jury duty to take care of their children.
One of the women, Christa Pehl Evans, a mother of three who sometimes works as an adjunct professor, took to Facebook to criticize Judge James Petrucelli and explain what happened.
According to Christa, last month she requested to be excused from jury duty because she is homeschooling her children and is still breastfeeding her youngest child. She wrote that Petrucelli said, “I don’t care about your children.”
In an interview with the Fresno Bee, Christa said she felt that the judge was being condescending and dismissive of her situation.
“He had this attitude toward me that I was some dumb mom, which is a broader problem in this country,” she said. “I have a Ph.D. from Princeton, and being a mother is the hardest job I’ve ever done. I felt like I had to defend myself for mothering my children.”
Petrucelli then asked her who was currently taking care of her kids, and she told him her husband took a day off to stay home with them. He then asked, “What happens when he does not take a day off or if you are sick?” to which Christa replied, “I take care of my kids when I’m sick.”
The judge then asked what would happen “If you got hit by a Mack truck (a truck from an American manufacturing company) and went to the hospital?”
Another women at the jury selection also asked to be excused because she is a stay-at-home mom to an 18-month-old and is currently pregnant. Petrucelli asked what her husband does for a living, and, after hearing he is a doctor, remarked that she should be able to afford childcare.
“I’m amazed that people don’t have childcare available to them,” he said out loud to the courtroom of 300 people.
While that unknown woman couldn’t be reached by the Bee, Christa said the whole situation was “off-putting.”
“For me, I understood that she was worried about the regularity of her child’s schedule,” she said. “But it was like he just wanted her to suck it up. I found it very offensive and insensitive.”
Christa wrote online that a father had also asked to be excused because he needed to work to provide for his family, but the judge did not question him or make any comments about his situation.
According to the Bee, this is not the first time Petrucelli’s behavior has been criticized. He has a history of incidents including one in 2007 where he was reprimanded after poor behavior to lawyers and county employees that was described as “discourteous, sarcastic or demeaning to those appearing before him.”
Christa explained online that she is not against serving on a jury, but would not be able to do it given her current circumstances.
“I am more than happy to serve on the jury when my children are older, but my most important duty to this country at this moment is to raise loving human beings, a job that consumes me all day and many nights,” she wrote. “Caring for [my daughter] Sylvia has been more challenging for me than graduate school ever was.”
She ended her post with a message about respecting moms and taking their responsibilities seriously.
“We can #metoo all we want about sexual assault, but until we respect mothering as a valid and important occupation, we have a major sexist problem. Paid work is not the only work that matters.”