Miss trial: Legislature passes bill excusing new mothers from jury duty

The measure earned bipartisan support and plaudits from interest groups and local government agencies.

Of all the things new mothers in Florida must deal with, jury duty soon won’t be one of them.

A bill (HB 461) excusing women from jury service if they’ve given birth within six months and request an exemption cleared its last stop in the Legislature by a unanimous vote.

Effective July 1, the measure enjoyed similar support when House members approved it last month.

Vero Beach Republican Sen. Erin Grall, who sponsored its twin (SB 462), briefly explained the bill’s effects before the Wednesday vote but offered no other comments.

The House sponsor, Carolina Amesty, previously called the measure “important.”

“Strong and healthy families should be at the heart of our state’s policymaking,” she said. “In the Sunshine State, we’re committed to helping women bond with their babies during these invaluable early moments.”

The legislation should next go to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk. It earned bipartisan plaudits from lawmakers and representatives of interest groups and government agencies, including Jefferson County Clerk Jason Welty and Morgan Parish of the Florida Clerks and Comptrollers Association.

A Senate staff analysis of the legislation found the bill may financially benefit businesses employing mothers of newborns and the mothers themselves “to the extent that such women use the bill’s excusal … to attend a job instead of jury service.”

Staff noted the change may minimally increase costs to impanel jurors due to the additional summons for jury service a county would need to send out.

Of note, Florida law already allows excusals, upon request, for expectant mothers and parents who are not employed full-time and have custody of children under 6.

HB 461 comes at a time of increasing juridical system accommodations for mothers with newborns. In March 2023, lawmakers unanimously approved a measure requiring many courthouses across Florida to provide free, clean, private lactation rooms.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

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