Earlier this month, Judge J. Dan Pelletier Sr. of the Atlanta Immigration Court denied attorney Stacey Ehrisman-Mickle’s motion to delay a hearing which she requested due to the fact that she was on maternity leave. In his refusal, the judge stated there was “No good cause.” Even though the opposing counsel was fine with it and hearings are routinely delayed for lesser reasons.
Having no available family, an out-of-town husband, and no other options since her local day care does not allow children under 6 weeks, the new mother–under her pediatrician’s direction–securely strapped her tiny baby to her chest and proceeded to the hearing. There she was lambasted by Pelletier who called her “unprofessional” as he questioned her mothering abilities in front of the entire court.
“I was embarrassed,” she said. “I felt humiliated.”
So let me get this straight: Women increasingly no longer have access to a safe abortion–and in some cases birth control–yet having a baby is frowned upon too? Women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It’s become all too clear that in some hostile corners, the real offense is simply being a woman.
Ehrisman-Mickle’s motion for continuance was thorough, immaculate, respectful and timely. The hearing was scheduled on Oct. 7th, Ehrisman-Mickle mailed the motion Sept. 8th. It was received by the court on the 9th. Pelletier did not issue a denial until Oct. 2nd. Ehrisman-Mickle received it on the 3rd. This means the new mother of a brand new baby girl had just a few days to prepare for a hearing she had every reason to believe would have been postponed until Oct. 24th, the day she was cleared by her physician to return to work.
“I think the judge yelling at her for being unprofessional by appearing with her child is unreasonable, insensitive and unprofessional,” said Georgia State University College of Law associate professor Tanya Washington.
Known as a “deportation machine,” it’s been discussed among legal circles since 2010 that Judge Pelletier is no friend to minorities and now it seems he extends similar warmth and decorum to women as well.
According to The Nation article, “Lawless Courts,” Pelletier has a reputation for running “roughshod over the rights of US residents.”
Ehrisman-Mickle, for her part, has filed a formal complaint:
…I appeared with my clients this morning at their scheduled master calendar hearing. I was forced to bring my weeks old daughter with me as day care centers do not accept infants less than 6 weeks of age and I have no family in Georgia that could help me look after my baby. My husband is a truck driver and was out of state today. My family is in Iowa and my husband’s family is in New York and New Jersey. We have only lived in Georgia since November of last year. When the IJ saw me with my daughter, he was outraged. He scolded me for being inappropriate for bringing her. He questioned the fact that day care centers do not accept infants less than 6 weeks of age. He then questioned my mothering skills as he commented how my pediatrician must be appalled that I am exposing my daughter to so many germs in court. He humiliated me in open court.
The IJ believes that because I accepted representation knowing the next master calendar hearing was during my maternity leave, I am at fault and undeserving of a continuance to October 24- the day I’m expected to be cleared for return to work by my doctor. Apparently my clients do not deserve to be represented by counsel of their choice if that counsel happens to be a pregnant woman. Likewise, pregnant women should not be litigating attorneys due to their “condition”. This thinking is absolutely reprehensible and should not be accepted by anyone within or representing the Department of Justice.
I am horrified that this occurred and that I had to bring my infant to court with me. Despite the IJ’s belief, child birth is no minor inconvenience and rightfully calls for a six week absence from work – if not longer as most other developed countries recognize. Furthermore, I am a qualified, experienced and ethical attorney that should not have to stop practicing law upon becoming pregnant to accommodate the backward thinking of certain judges.
|Nicole Girard is a political writer with a passion for civil rights and the truth. Follow her on facebook and twitter.|