A stay-at-home mom of three is firing back after a judge allegedly “verbally assaulted” her “for mothering [her] children.”
In a Facebook post shared on Nov. 21 that has since gone viral, Fresno, California-based Christa Pehl Evans recalled an incident the previous day that took place at the Fresno Superior Courthouse, when Judge James Petrucelli would not allow her to be exempt from jury duty to take care of her kids.
“When I asked to be excused because I need to care for my children, these are things Judge James Petrucelli (Dept. 61, Fresno Superior Courthouse) said to me,” wrote Pehl Evans, who is mom to son Harvey, 5, plus daughters Sylvia, 16 months, and Violet, 7.
She went on to allege that she had been on the receiving end of comments from Petrucelli such as, “I don’t care about your children” and “Who is going to take care of your children when you get hit by a Mack Truck?”
Pehl Evans continued, ” ‘What do you do when you are sick?’ I replied, ‘I take care of my kids,’ and he shook his head at me with a disgusted expression on his face.”
” ‘What do you do when you have to do something?’ ” she claimed of another line of questioning. “I replied, ‘I take my baby.’ “
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“And then, obviously directed at me and the other very pregnant mother of a 20 month old: ‘I just don’t understand these people with no childcare,’ ” Pehl Evans alleged, stating that the conversation “went on and on in front of the entire courtroom.” (According to the court transcript, The Sacramento Bee reports, Petrucelli’s statement was, “I’m amazed that people don’t have childcare available to them.”)
“There were almost 300 people at the courthouse called to serve jury duty, and Judge James Petrucelli chose to berate two mothers of young children,” she went on. “In contrast the man in the room asking to get off the jury because he needed money from his job to support his family was not questioned. Judge Petrucelli simply nodded his head in agreement with him.”
In a follow-up interview with The Sacramento Bee, Petrucelli said he had “no recollection of the lady that’s complaining on Facebook” and originally denied several of the comments Pehl Evans alleged before reviewing the court transcript and stating, “I’m not offended by anything I said.”
“I have said that to people before, to make a point about what happens if there’s an emergency,” he continued of his Mack Truck remark, adding, “I do have a tendency to get people’s attention. There’s no two ways about it.”
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Petrucelli turned the conversation around on Pehl Evans, questioning why she wouldn’t reach out to him if she felt put off by the turn of events.
“Why wouldn’t somebody call me and have me apologize if they’re offended? It is not my job or thought process to offend anybody. I do this every day,” he said. “We have thousands and thousands and thousands of jurors come through,” he said.
“I mean, I have so many people come up to me away from court and tell me what a wonderful experience it was to be in my courtroom and so on.”
Pehl Evans also granted The Sacramento Bee with an interview, opining of Petrucelli, “He had this attitude toward me that I was some dumb mom, which is a broader problem in this country. I have a PhD from Princeton, and being a mother is the hardest job I’ve ever done. I felt like I had to defend myself for mothering my children.”
According to the outlet, Pehl Evans was excused from court that day but has to return in January, where she’ll “have to go through all of this again,” she lamented.
“I am a homeschooling mother of three, including a 16-month-old nursing baby that I have never left for an entire day, much less over a week,” she remarked in her Facebook post. “I do not need to defend the importance of motherhood — we have known for hundreds of years that the mental, emotional and spiritual health of us as adults depends largely on the care and nurturing we receive in these early years.”
“I am more than happy to serve on the jury when my children are older, but my most important duty to this country at this moment is to raise loving human beings, a job that consumes me all day and many nights,” Pehl Evans continued. “Caring for Sylvia has been more challenging for me than graduate school ever was.”
“We can #metoo all we want about sexual assault, but until we respect mothering as a valid and important occupation, we have a major sexist problem. Paid work is not the only work that matters.”