President’s Message: A Tribute to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
- Kendra Bertschy
The world lost a powerful advocate and brilliant jurist with the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, September 19, 2020. Justice Ginsberg was a trailblazer for women’s rights and is seen as the reason why women’s rights have advanced under the eyes of the law. Justice Ginsberg secured the fundamental rights that we all, especially women enjoy today. Thanks to Justice Ginsberg, women have achieved to some of the highest levels of leadership across our nation. We felt that it was only fitting to begin this blog with a tribute to her distinguished life. She was an inspiration, icon, and mentor for many female lawyers.
Regardless of whether you agree with her on every case, her career was undoubtedly dedicated to championing the principles of gender equality. Here is a compilation of some of advancements that she led and notable legal decisions and dissents:
As Justice Ginsburg eloquently stated, “[f]ight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” Her passing has sparked the desire in many to fight against injustices. Let us honor her by helping others. Northern Nevada Women Lawyers Association endeavored this year to provide more opportunities for our members to engage in community service. This month, we are hosting a donation drive for the Children’s Cabinet to help their clients who are some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
Make sure that you vote, and make an educated decision when you vote. NNWLA is hosting a judicial candidate event on October 16 to assist you in researching your local judicial candidates. Although we are unable to include everyone that is on the ballot in this event, we encourage our members to research the judges and other officials on your ballot before you vote. More importantly, if you are able to, please consider volunteering with the ACLU as a poll worker for the election to protect against voter intimidation or sign up to serve as an Election Worker at your local polling center.
May Justice Ginsberg rest in power and may we preserve her legacy by continuing to work towards the advancement of women in the legal profession and equality for all.
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Local Courts need Lactation Rooms
--Jennifer M. Richards, Esq.
Even during a global pandemic, life keeps moving forward. I recently gave birth and returned to work. One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been the ability to work remotely and nurse my baby. When speaking with other friends and colleagues, they recounted their own challenges as nursing lawyer moms. Most switched to formula early on because they lacked the support, access, and accommodations to breastfeed successfully. The founder of MothersEsquire, Michelle Browning Coughlin, said it best, “All of a sudden, [women are] at this intersection between a core part of being a mother – feeding your child – and being a professional. It literally feels like a choice between being a good mom, or good lawyer.” And while, there have been some improvements in accommodations for breastfeeding in the workplace, for those in the legal field, there are still too many barriers to facilitate breastfeeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends that infants are exclusively fed breast milk for the first 6 months of life and that breastfeeding continue for the first year. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at 6 months only approximately 19% of babies are exclusively fed breast milk. For infants, breastfeeding provides innumerable health benefits to protect them from childhood illnesses such as ear infection, asthma, obesity, and others. There are numerous benefits for mothers as well including reducing the risks of postpartum depression, accelerating the return to pre-pregnancy weight, and reducing the risk of several cancers, type II diabetes, and osteoporosis in later life.
In the last several years, many new laws have been passed to promote and encourage breastfeeding in the workplace. At the state level, Nevada has passed laws such as the Nevada Pregnant Women’s Fairness Act which allows nursing women to request reasonable accommodations to nurse or express breast milk. The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees, but employers do not have to provide the accommodation if it “creates a significant difficulty or expense.” But for attorneys appearing in state courts, administrative hearings, or legislative proceedings the only options may be a car, bathroom, or empty room without any locks or privacy. The conditions may be unsanitary, lack an electrical outlet for a breast pump, or access to a refrigerator. Due to breast milk storage guidelines a mother might have to tote around a portable cooler along with trial exhibits and breast pumping equipment.
Attorneys appearing in federal courts will now have access to lactation rooms thanks to the “Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2019” which went into effect on July 25, 2020. The law requires that certain public federal buildings which are open to the public, contain a public restroom, and provide lactation spaces for their employees must also provide a lactation space for pumping and nursing moms. The space cannot be a bathroom and must be private, include a chair and work surface, and provide an electrical outlet for a breast pump. Nevada’s federal courts in Reno and Las Vegas now provide private lactation rooms for nursing attorneys, jurors, court participants and employees. The rooms are equipped with a small refrigerator.
Recognizing the challenges of nursing mothers, the ABA Young Lawyers Division adopted resolution 101A encouraging all courthouses to establish lactation areas available to lawyers, jurors, litigants, witnesses and observers that are private and free from intrusion, have a door that can be locked, include a work surface and electrical outlet, are accessible to persons with disabilities and are not located in a restroom. The resolution recounts the stories of attorneys across the county who have attempted to express breast milk in empty rooms at courthouses only to be interrupted by court security, bailiffs, and others unexpectedly. The resolution also recounts the story of a female prosecutor who “was provided with the only room with a door she was allowed – by courthouse rule – to close: a jail holding cell in the basement.” Finally, a judge in Florida came within the national spotlight in 2015, after a female litigator asked for additional breaks to pump breast milk and was told to “just get another attorney to try the case.”
While some courthouses remain closed with virtual hearings at this time, things will open again and mothers will continue to face the same challenges. Nevada’s courthouses and state facilitates need to provide lactation rooms so that working moms won’t have to choose between nourishing their child and being a good lawyer.
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