An attorney who was denied a motion to delay a hearing due to her maternity leave showed up with her infant and got reprimanded by the judge in front of a packed court room. The new mom brought her four-week-old daughter in a chest strap so she could comply with the hearing, but the baby wasn’t happy about it and started crying.
Stacy Ehrisman-Mickle was handling a case for two young clients at the beginning of September and immediately requested a delay in their hearing since she knew the date would fall during the time she was taking off for maternity leave. Immigration Judge J. Dan Pelletier Sr. wrote in an order denying the attorney’s request, “No good cause. Hearing date set prior to counsel accepting representation.”
According to the Associated Press, Pelletier was contacted by phone on Thursday about the incident, but refused to comment saying immigration judges cannot make public statements and referred the call to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which falls under the Justice Department and oversees immigration courts. The office said it could not comment on the judge’s decision to deny the hearing as requested by the attorney and said a complaint had been filed.
The attorney initially spoke to her clients in July but they couldn’t afford her fees at the time. On September 2, they attended their first immigration hearing without a lawyer, and hired Ehrisman-Mickle four days later, on a Saturday.
Ehrisman-Mickle took the case but warned her clients that their first hearing fell on October 7 and she would be in maternity leave at the time. The attorney told them that it shouldn’t be a problem since two other immigration lawyers had already granted her request to a delay.
The attorney filed the motion for delay on September 8 and the court received it the next day. However, the immigration judge didn’t rule on the motion until October 2. Ehrisman-Mickle office received the decision the following day, October 3, which was the Friday before the Tuesday hearing.
At home on her maternity leave, the immigration attorney was shocked when her secretary called, her telling her the motion to delay the hearing had been denied and she needed to appear in court the following Tuesday. Ehrisman-Mickle says her husband is a truck driver and was out of town and she has no family in the area.
At four-weeks-old, her baby was too young for day care. “I was in a state of panic. I didn’t know what to do with my baby,” she told the AP on Thursday.
The new mom called her pediatrician to ask if it was okay to bring her infant to the hearing and was told that it was fine as long and she brought her in a chest carrier facing her body and didn’t let anyone touch her. During the hearing the baby began to cry and Pelletier scolded her in front of the packed court room.
“I was embarrassed. I felt humiliated,” she said.
Another lawyer, who was present during the hearing, confirms the story as Ehrisman-Mickle relates it but declined to be identified for fear that the judge would retaliate against his clients. Pelletier finally agreed to delay the hearing until the doctor gives the attorney the all clear to return to work.
According to the attorney, she filed a complaint against Pelletier the day of the hearing. Even though an investigative judge called to get her side of the story, she has not had a formal response yet.
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