Breastfeeding is a natural process which enhances the health and well-being of not only the parent and baby, but of our communities at large. Breastfeeding parents include Judges, Court Staff, Attorneys, Litigants, Witnesses, and Jurors; they can fully and actively participate in the Courts, provided they are properly accommodated.
After recognizing that our state Courts may not have been as accessible to breastfeeding parents as they could be, under the leadership of then-President Sarah Parady, the Colorado Women’s Bar Association undertook the task of developing a Colorado Courthouse Breastfeeding Rooms Best Practices Guide. The efforts of the CWBA Working Group for the Best Practices Guide have been led by CWBA members and lawyer moms Heather Jackson and Laura Pearson. The Working Group is comprised of a small group of CWBA attorney members, breastfeeding experts and advocates within our community, and members of the Colorado State Judiciary.
The Best Practices Guide explores the needs of breastfeeding parents, difficulties they face, and best practices for addressing these needs to ensure equal access to justice for all. The Guide is based on empirical and anecdotal data gathered from a survey designed and conducted by the Working Group, advice from breastfeeding experts and advocates, and successful efforts to increase appropriate breastfeeding space and accommodations in Courts outside Colorado.
When we started this journey, the legal requirement for lactation accommodations was generally known, but the Working Group wanted to deliver recommendations for implementation in Colorado Courts that addressed the specific needs and concerns of stakeholders across the state. To accomplish that, the Working Group designed and administered a survey to measure the opinions and experiences of Colorado Courthouse users through questions eliciting quantitative and qualitative data.
The Working Group gathered 246 responses to the survey over the course of approximately 1 month in early 2020. Of the 246 respondents, 153 said they could offer responses to the survey about their own experiences and observations in a Colorado Court as a breastfeeding parent, and 89 people said they could offer responses to the survey based on their own experiences and observations in a Colorado Court as someone working to accommodate breastfeeding parents. A small portion of respondents identified as both. Data was gathered about 44 courthouses across the state, including courts based in both rural and metropolitan areas.
While the survey data showed that there are some Courts, Judges, and Courthouse staff doing a good job of accommodating breastfeeding parents, we learned that in many places, the accommodations are lacking and/or not effectively communicated and equally available to all Courthouse users. Survey responses helped the Working Group identify the following concerns of breastfeeding parents and those working to accommodate breastfeeding parents in Colorado Courts:
The current practices/procedures in many Colorado Courts are not meeting the needs of all breastfeeding parents. Each stakeholder group has different needs and for internal Courthouse users, there are employer/employee concerns as well.
Many Courts in Colorado lack a uniform method of communicating about breastfeeding accommodations available to Courthouse users.
Many Courts in Colorado lack a dedicated and/or designated space for breastfeeding and/or pumping. (Dedicated implies that the space is not dual-purpose; designated implies that the space, whether multi-purpose or not, is not specified).
Many Courts in Colorado do not grant adequate time accommodations for breastfeeding parents. Adequate time includes both time to for lactation and to use the restroom, eat, etc.
Shortcomings by Colorado Courts in making proper accommodations have led to adverse health outcomes for breastfeeding parents and unequal access to the Courts.
The Best Practices Guide is on track to be unveiled in 2021. It will address Practices and Procedures currently being followed that are effective and/or recommended, as well as those that are ineffective. The Guide will also include recommendations and ideas for implementing Best Practices and Procedures that can be utilized by Courts in both rural and metropolitan areas of Colorado. We are excited to publish this Guide to assist Courts in better accommodating the needs of breastfeeding parents, thereby advancing community interests while increasing access to justice.
Heather Jackson is the Managing Attorney of Colorado Injury Law Center, a private law firm dedicated to client-centered advocacy where she brings years of industry experience as a Claims Adjuster to help maximize her clients’ insurance recoveries, both with and without litigation. A 2013 graduate of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Heather is admitted to practice in both the State and Federal Courts in Colorado. In addition to her membership and contributions to the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, Heather is active in both the Rhone Brackett and Ben S. Wendelken Inns of Court, in the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, Women’s Trial Lawyers Network, Colorado W.O.L.F (Women Owned Law Firms), Denver MAMAs, and El Paso County and Colorado State Bar Associations. She also serves on the Editorial Committee for Trial Talk, a bi-monthly publication by CTLA. Heather has lived in Colorado for nearly 30 years with most of that time based in Colorado Springs. She enjoys cooking, hiking, pop-culture trivia, indie rock, snowboarding, and spending time with her husband and their three young children.
Originally from Huntington Woods, Michigan, Laura Pearson is a 2008 graduate of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and now runs her own practice where she represents business and individuals who need help with general civil litigation, commercial litigation, and workplace safety and health matters. She has over a decade of litigation experience split between public offices and private firms. In addition to her volunteer efforts with the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, she serves as a Board member of Denver MAMAs, and is an active member of Colorado W.O.L.F. (Women Owned Law Firms) and Colorado Bar Association.
Laura enjoys exploring Colorado with her husband Jarrod and their son and has taken remote learning in the age of COVID-19 to great new heights.