A woman fighting a Michigan boating ticket that had already resulted in a bench warrant says she had no choice but to take her 5-month-old with her to a Tuesday hearing as he recuperated from a fever.
Quiet for more than two hours as she waited for her case to be called, the boy then awakened and needed to eat. So, since she was wearing appropriate clothing for the purpose, she breastfed him, Natalie Hegedus tells WWMT.
This didn’t go over well with the judge, when Hegedus’ case was called while her son, Landen, was still eating.
“You think that’s appropriate in here?” Judge Robert Hentchel asked her, according to a transcript of the 7th District Court case in Paw Paw.
Hegedus replied that she had to feed her son, and it was legal to do so.
“Ma’am, it’s my courtroom, I decide what’s appropriate in here, come on up, okay,” Hentchel then tells her. “You have to understand that a judge, the laws don’t apply in a courtroom, the judge’s law applies, do you understand that?”
Hegedus tells the station she wouldn’t have minded if the issue had been handled more discretely, but she felt publicly humiliated by the judge’s tone and the implication that she had done something “dirty” by nursing her baby.
Chief Judge Paul Hamre said he felt Hentchel had done nothing wrong, WWMT reports, calling it “inappropriate” for a defendant to appear in a criminal court holding a baby and noting that Hentchel nonetheless hadn’t sanctioned Hegedus or even asked her to leave the courtroom.
Supporters of Hegedus are now planning to hold a “nurse-in” outside the Van Buren County courthouse later this month.
I’m not sure what other option the mother had. Judges tend to frown upon leaving the courtroom before your case is called (leading to a great many mornings with me in a courtroom re-reading the same magazine and pretending to check e-mail for hours), but they also tend to frown upon squalling babies in the courtroom. A surreptitious breast her and there seems like a fair price to pay. I actually once managed to convince an opposing party to settle after the judge refused to continue a hearing with my client’s squealing baby next to the counsel table.
This is my Exhibit A for inappropriate courtroom behavior.