Miami Judge Refused to Let Attorney Take a Break to Pump Breast Milk

Marissa Altman wanted to take a break from the courtroom to pump breast milk, but a judge said no.
Marissa Altman wanted to take a break from the courtroom to pump breast milk, but a judge said no.
Photo by Vlastní dílo, Wikimedia Commons

An attorney and mother of a 5-month-old child says a county judge denied her request last week to take short breaks to pump her breasts during a trial.

Marissa Altman, an 11-year assistant public defender, acts as a trainer for misdemeanor lawyers that are new to the courtroom. One day last week, as she was preparing to assist an attorney the following day, she mentioned to Judge Fred Seraphin — as well as the trainee, court personnel, and prosecutors also present in the room — that she would need to take short breaks every three to four hours to pump her breasts. The breaks usually take around 15 minutes each.

Instead of listening to and honoring the request, Altman says, Seraphin interrupted her, denied the request, and said she was unable to take any special breaks.

“I didn’t even get a chance to give him the information,” Altman says. “I didn’t even mention it would be no more than 15 minutes if I could set up [the pump] close to the courtroom.”

Altman says breaks of all types are a common occurrence during trial, which made the situation more baffling. Normally, breaks arise due to scheduling issues or to use the restroom, or when the jury is taken out of the courtroom between selection and trial.

“I was just in such shock when he said he wasn’t going to take a break,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s the last thing you’d expect to hear.”

Judge Seraphin didn't return a message from New Times seeking comment about Altman's complaint.

On Monday, Seraphin told the Daily Business Review that the incident was “simply a miscommunication.”

But Altman says she doesn’t understand what the "miscommunication" could have been.

“My office has audio of what took place,” she says. “We’re reviewing what to do next.”  

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