A Fresno, California, woman blasted a local judge this week after the judge made allegedly critical comments toward her about not having childcare.
Christa Pehl Evans, who had three children under the age of 7, said she reported for jury duty on Nov. 20, raised her hand, and said she should be excused because she needed to take care of her kids. Evans also said she breastfeeds her youngest and homeschools her other two children.
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Judge James Petrucelli then allegedly insulted the mom, she claimed.
Petrucelli told Evans and another woman, “I don’t care about your children,” according to a Facebook post she made on Nov. 21.
“He had this attitude toward me that I was some dumb mom, which is a broader problem in this country,” she told the Fresno Bee. “I have a PhD 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 asked who was caring for her children when she was in jury duty. She said her husband had stayed home from work, according to the report.
“What happens when he does not take a day off or if you are sick?” Petrucelli asked her.
Evans replied, “I take care of my kids when I’m sick.”
Petrucelli then asked her: “If you got hit by a Mack truck and went to the hospital?”
“That would be an issue. It has not happened yet,” she replied.
Another woman, a stay-at-home mother of an 18-month old and who is pregnant, also asked the judge to be excused on the same day, according to the Fresno Bee. She told the judge she’s a doctor, and he told her she could afford child care.
“I’m amazed that people don’t have child care available to them,” Petrucelli told the unnamed woman.
Evans said his comments were unnecessary.
“For me, I understood that she was worried about the regularity of her child’s schedule,” Evans said. “But it was like he just wanted her to suck it up. I found it very offensive and insensitive.”
Evans said she was excused for jury duty but was ordered to come back in January, saying, “I’ll have to go through all of this again.”
On Facebook, she pilloried the judge.
“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 and went on to defend stay-at-home mothers. “Paid work is not the only work that matters,” she added.
“His conversation with me went on and on in front of the entire courtroom,” she wrote in her post. “There were almost 300 people at the courthouse called to serve jury duty, and Judge James Petrucelli chose to berate two mothers of young children. In contrast the man in the room asking to get off the jury because he needed money from his job to support his family was not questioned. Judge Petrucelli simply nodded his head in agreement with him.”
Judge Defends Comments, Denies Allegations
Petrucelli said he stood by his comments.
“It’s my responsibility to ask those questions. I’m not offended by anything I said,” he said, adding that his questions were meant to probe into any financial hardships. “But people have different sensitivities.”
He first denied the Mack truck comment, but later reviewed the comment and said, “I have said that to people before, to make a point about what happens if there’s an emergency.”
Petrucelli added, “I do have a tendency to get people’s attention. There’s no two ways about it.”
In the interview, he denied her allegations that he acted out of malice.
“Why wouldn’t somebody call me and have me apologize if they’re offended? It is not my job or thought process to offend anybody. I do this every day. We have thousands and thousands and thousands of jurors come through,” he said. “I mean, I have so many people come up to me away from court and tell me what a wonderful experience it was to be in my courtroom and so on.”
He was first elected in 1998 after working as a civil attorney and sheriff’s deputy in Fresno. He was re-elected in November 2016, running unopposed.
Bakersfield.com reported that in 2015, the state judicial commission censured Petrucelli for ordering some correctional officers to release from jail a friend of his who was charged with domestic violence. Officials described his actions as “serious misconduct.”
In 2007, he was reprimanded by the state commission for poor behavior towards county employees and lawyers for making comments that are “discourteous, sarcastic or demeaning to those appearing before him,” according to the report.
He also got two letters reprimanding for infringing on lawyers’ rights and raising his voice with county workers, the report stated. That happened in 2001 and 2002.
According to Pew, more mothers are staying home in the United States: “The share of mothers who do not work outside the home has risen over the past decade, reversing a long-term decline in stay-at-home mothers. (In the U.S. today, 71 percent of all mothers work outside the home.) Two-thirds are ‘traditional’ married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands, but a growing share is unmarried.”
Meanwhile, more Americans say a stay-at-home parent is the best option
“Despite the fact that most mothers in the U.S. work at least part time, 60 percent of Americans say children are better off when a parent stays home to focus on the family, while 35 percent say they are just as well off when both parents work outside the home,” Pew said.