A stay-at-home mother of three is saying she felt bullied and insulted during her encounter with a Fresno County judge who told her "I Don't Care About Your Children" when she asked to be excused from jury duty.
When Christa Pehl Evans reported for jury duty on Nov. 20th she planned on asking the judge to be excused. A part-time adjunct professor at Fresno Pacific University, Pehl Evans is also a full-time, homeschooling mom of three children under the age of seven. What she did not plan though was the reaction she received from Judge James Petrucelli.
According to court transcripts obtained by The Fresno Bee when Pehl Evans asked to be excused from the case Judge Petrucelli asked who was taking care of her children at the time.
When she replied that her husband had stayed home from work the judge asked:
"What happens when he does not take a day off or if you are sick?"
"I take care of my kids when I'm sick." Pehl Evans answered.
"If you got hit by a Mack truck and went to the hospital?" Petrucelli asked.
Pehl Evans replied "That would be an issue. It has not happened yet."
Petrucelli later questioned another pregnant, stay-at-home mom looking to be excused, asking what her husband did for a living. When she answered that he was a doctor Petrucelli said she could afford childcare.
"I'm amazed that people don't have child care available to them," Petrucelli added.
She later wrote in a Facebook post that her exchange with Judge Petrucelli left her feeling bullied and insulted for choosing to care for her children.
"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."
"His conversation with me went on and on in front of the entire courtroom. 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."
"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."
Pehl Evans says she will be "more than happy to serve" when her children are older, but believes that for now being there to raise them is her "most important duty." According to Pehl Evans, Judge Petrucelli's line of questioning wasn't just an attack on her, but an attack on motherhood as a whole.
And Pehl Evans wasn't the only one who thought Petrucelli's questions stepped over the line.
Petrucelli however didn't think anything he asked was offensive though.
In an interview with The Fresno Bee's Mackenzie Mays, Petrucelli claimed the questions were not meant to be hateful, but designed to identify a financial hardship.
"It's my responsibility to ask those questions. I'm not offended by anything I said," Petrucelli said. "But people have different sensitivities. I do have a tendency to get people's attention. There's no two ways about it."
Petrucelli however seemed to take offense at the questions posed by Mackenzie Mays, telling her "you've challenged me in my official capacity."
The incident with Pehl Evans though is just the latest in a long history of similar behavior for Petrucelli.
In 2015 Petrucelli was censured by the state judicial commission for "serious misconduct" after he ordered a friend who was facing domestic violence charges to be released from jail.
The commission also reprimanded him in 2007 for comments that were "discourteous, sarcastic or demeaning to those appearing before him." In 2001 and 2002 he received similar reprimands.
Petrucelli is up for reelection in 2022, unfortunately for Pehl Evans her ordeal with him is not over yet. She was given a temporary excusal in November but must return to serve in January.
"I'll have to go through all of this again."