RICHLAND -- Lisa Campbell was pregnant when she first received a jury summons for Benton County Superior Court.
The Richland woman was told to report in April 2011, but she was granted a one-year deferment since that was shortly after her due date.
Earlier this year, the second summons arrived and her then-9-month-old son still was mostly breast fed. After citing the need to pump regularly and conflicting medical appointments, the Benton County Clerk's Office again extended Campbell's jury duty from March 5 to when she ultimately was called April 16.
By that time, the 27-year-old mother believed she was ready. Her son was a little bit older, she was back at work part-time and he now was taking a bottle.
But the physical pain she endured in the four hours spent at the courthouse that morning and the overall experience leading up to it has Campbell on a mission to allow temporary exemptions for breast-feeding mothers and caregivers of elderly, disabled and special-needs dependents.
So she has organized a peaceful demonstration -- also being dubbed a nurse-in -- at 7:30 a.m. Monday outside the Benton County Justice Center in Kennewick.
"The more research I did and the more stories I heard, it hurt my heart that mothers in particular, but also caregivers, were feeling harassed," Campbell told the Herald. "I won't be breast-feeding forever, and I'd happily do my civic duty, but my child comes first."
Campbell said a recess was taken two hours into jury selection and a kindly female bailiff set her up in a private room to pump for about 20 minutes. However, it was another two hours before she was allowed to go home as the selection process continued into the lunch hour.
"I started to get fairly uncomfortable at that point, and thankfully I was excused," she said. "I would have been a terrible juror because I wouldn't have been able to focus on the trial. If I was the defendant, I would want people who want to be up there."
Campbell discovered at least 12 states created "Family Friendly Jury Duty" legislation that allows nursing mothers, at-home parents of young children and caregivers to seek long-term deferments. She is leading the effort to get Washington state legislators to enact a similar law.
She formed a Facebook group at www.facebook.com/FFJDWA and created a petition on change.org, directing it to the Washington state Senate, House and the entire State legislature. As of Saturday evening, there were 139 petition signatures with 1,000 needed, according to the site.
On Monday, she expects at least a dozen moms, and a few dads, to participate in the informational rally. The public is welcome to join in, she said.
Some people in the group may be holding signs expressing outrage, but Campbell said the intent is to raise awareness rather than create trouble.
After all, she said, "We have babies to feed, so we can't go to jail!"
Benton County Clerk Josie Delvin also sees the planned gathering as a way to educate the public on the truth about the jury summons process per state law and the orders of the bicounty court's six Superior Court judges. Delvin said she's disappointed and frustrated that some of the information being disseminated by Campbell's group isn't accurate.
"I will be available (Monday morning) for their questions and to help educate them on the correct way to request the deferral and what we can and cannot do for them," Delvin said.
Two deferrals, each up to a year long, can be granted by the Clerk's Office before the potential juror must get approval by a judge for a third request. At that point, the person can fax, email or hand-deliver a letter to the office explaining to a judge why they still are not available for jury duty.
Yakima County Superior Court has the same policy, Delvin said.
"There's the misconception that it is the clerk's discretion, and it is not my discretion. I'm given the authority by the judges how to handle exemptions and to handle deferrals," said Delvin, who raised this topic during a meeting last Thursday with the judges. "They do not want us to change the way we're doing it. Then it gets into the issue of no longer making jury selection random because once you start exempting a group of individuals ... it could be discrimination."
Monday's nurse-in initially was planned to coincide with jury duty for Amanda Walley, a Richland stay-at-home mom who is exclusively breastfeeding her 5 1/2-month-old son and has a 3-year-old daughter with severe sensory processing disorder.
Walley first was granted a deferment when she was on doctor-prescribed bed rest during her first trimester of pregnancy. She received another after she got a summons less than two weeks following her son's birth. She was out of options when the third summons arrived for May, and Campbell said her friend was told she would face legal consequences if she did not show up Monday or brought her baby along to jury duty.
Walley said she sent a letter to the Clerk's Office asking for a judge's approval to be deferred and spoke to employees, but she was told nothing could be done.
Last week, Delvin exchanged emails with Walley and got a judge to sign off on a three-month delay so she no longer needs to report Monday morning.
"Women who breastfeed have unique challenges that many people may not be aware of," said Kristina French, a certified birth doula and childbirth educator with her own Richland business, Three Rivers Birth. "Many babies who are breast-fed will simply refuse a bottle, and some mothers' bodies just don't respond well to a breast pump, as babies are much more efficient at getting milk out than a pump is."
"When people are aware of these challenges for mother and baby, it is easy for people to get behind family-friendly breastfeeding laws, whether or not they have ever or will ever breastfeed a child," she added.
Campbell said she wants to be clear that her group believes in jury duty and hopes more people will consider returning their jury summons. Serving on a jury is an American privilege, she said, and community members who can serve need "to understand the issue so they don't make up excuses to get out of their civic duty."
"Almost every single mother I have talked with said, 'I would love to serve.' 'I think it's fascinating.' 'It's on my bucket list,' is another thing I've heard," Campbell said. "We just don't think we should have to choose our civic right over the health and welfare of our child."
Campbell added she doesn't want to be bullied for being a mother or for breastfeeding her child, even if the court is in need of jurors because of a low response from others. She said she was not aware that each of the first two deferments could be for up to a year until the Herald interview.
Benton County has about 150,000 potential jurors from voter registrations, driver's licenses and identification cards. A new list is provided by the state every year and automatically entered into the clerk's computer system, which then randomly selects 860 people for a two-week period to cover both Superior Court and District Court.
Delvin said the county has a "pretty good response rate" with about 600 of the 860 returning the jury summons, though some of them may be requesting deferrals, have moved or can't serve because they're a convicted felon. The problem is in the county's high no-show rate with about 25 percent not appearing weekly when called, she said.
The jury deputies don't see a lot of requests from breastfeeding mothers for automatic deferral, Delvin said. Any person can ask to postpone their service, but they must reply to the summons with a reason and provide an available month.
"We're not giving special treatment to any one group, and that's what we have to avoid," Delvin said.
There are very few instances where someone is permanently excused, Delvin said, and those typically involve a person who is developmentally disabled and have a physician's note.
It is rare, but women do show up for jury duty with their children, Delvin said, recalling that a mother brought her infant along during selection for the Phiengchai Sisouvanh trial involving a mother who was murdered and her near-term baby cut from the womb. The judges then will delay their jury duty one month and tell the women they will be expected to return alone.
Campbell said she recognizes Delvin has "a hard job," and her group doesn't want to make it any more difficult for the clerk, adding she's thankful Delvin paid attention to Walley's situation.
"Let me just reiterate that we're not trying to pass blame or be defensive. We're just trying to do what's best for our children ...," Campbell said. "We're trying to have a positive attitude about this because I don't think hate is a family value."