HENDERSONVILLE, NC — Stephanie Rhodus says a superior court judge tried to kick her out of a courtroom after she breastfed her 8-month-old boy during the proceedings.
Rhodus, 25, was taken to court over a custody battle with her mother, who has care over her other child, WHNS reported. She says she brought her son Archer to the proceedings, and breastfed him when he started to cry.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” said Rhodus.
The judge, however, did not think breastfeeding in the courtroom was acceptable. FOX Carolina obtained an official audio recording of the hearing. Judge Peter Knight presided over the proceedings and told Rhodus to “button up or step out.”
“Ma’am, you need to cover up,” Knight said. “For you not to realize that is absolutely ridiculous. Step outside and cover up right now. Stand up and go, now.”
He continued, “I am fine with having a child if you don’t have other arrangements made, that’s certainly going to happen. But to nurse the child in the courtroom is just absolutely inappropriate. Step outside and button up! Or whatever you need to do to button up. Are you gonna be able to stay buttoned up?… Have a seat and finish reading the complaint.”
“Yes sir, I’m finished,” Rhodus replied.
“I was mortified,” she told FOX Carolina’s Andrew Reeser. “He was extremely condescending, threatening – he was aggressive and it was scary to me.”
Rhodus said she felt the incident made it harder for her to plead her case. She added now that she is telling the story, she feels it will be hard to win.
“I do apologize for the breastfeeding,” Rhodus said to the judge after testifying.
“Just go back to the table where you were seated,” said Knight.
North Carolina law states “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breast feed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast feeding.”
“I was well within my rights to [breast feed],” said Rhodus.
Judge Peter Knight was not available for comment.
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