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How One Female Lawyer Confronted A Sexist Judge Who Refused To Honor Her Maternity Leave

Baby on board!

On the list of things that qualify as good excuses, it seems like maternity leave is an air-tight reason, right? Wrong! A judge in Atlanta denied Stacy Ehrisman-Mickle's request to postpone a hearing due to the fact that she had a baby only four weeks earlier. In response to her request, Judge J. Dan Pelletier Sr. wrote, "No good cause. Hearing date set prior to counsel accepting representation."

Clearly, Ehrisman-Mickle was miffed at his decision, especially given that two other immigration judges had granted similar motions that she'd filed with a note from her doctor. She had accepted the immigration case in July, but her clients couldn't afford to hire her right away and went to their first hearing alone. Then they hired her in the beginning of September, when she agreed to the case, assuming that her maternity leave request would be an acceptable reason to postpone the October date for their second hearing.

"I was in a state of panic. I didn't know what to do with my baby," she told The Associated Press in an interview on Thursday (October 16).

Left without options on such short notice—a four-week-old baby is too young for daycare and her truck-driver husband was out of the state—Stacy called her doctor to see if she could bring the baby to court with her. Her pediatrician assured her that as long as the baby was in a carrier facing her chest and didn't touch anyone in the court room, it should be fine.

But when Ehrisman-Mickle showed up to court, the judge publicly reprimanded her for bringing her baby—despite having already denied her maternity leave. Pelletier called her behavior inappropriate and scolded her when the baby began to cry. After all of this, the judge finally agreed to postpone the hearing for the case until Stacy's doctor cleared her to return to work. Another lawyer in the courtroom at the time confirmed the details of the encounter, but asked to remain anonymous out of fear of future retaliation.

"I was embarrassed. I felt humiliated," she told AP after the encounter. So Ehrisman-Mickle filed a formal complaint against the judge on the day of the hearing (October 7) and though an investigating judge called her about the complaint, she is currently waiting on a response.

Do you think Stacy made the right decision by standing up to the judge? What would you have done? Let us know in the comments.