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June 1, 2017
Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrota, and staff attorneys Lyndsey Siara and Nicole Gehringer

TWO STAFF ATTORNEYS at the 13th Judicial Circuit, who were also nursing moms, saw the need firsthand for lactation rooms at the courthouse and took their idea to their supervisors. On May 12, Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrota, and staff attorneys Lyndsey Siara and Nicole Gehringer cut the ribbon at a celebration announcing two new lactation rooms, open to the public, that will give nursing mothers a private, quiet space amid the hustle and bustle at the Edgecomb Courthouse and Criminal Courthouse Annex in Tampa.

Tampa’s courthouses offer lactation rooms

Four paragraphs on page 9 of the October 1, 2016, Bar News jumped out at two staff attorneys at the 13th Judicial Circuit in Tampa.

The headline was “Dade County Courthouse features a lactation room,” and Nicole Gehringer, eight-months pregnant, and Lyndsey Siara, who had recently finished pumping, both agreed it would be great if Hillsborough County’s courthouse had such an accommodation for nursing mothers, too.

They took their idea to Trial Court Administrator Gina Justice.

A lactation room “She was immediately on board, and we discussed what steps needed to be taken to get the rooms opened, like signage and appropriate furnishings. Our chief judge (Ronald Ficarrotta) was also on board,” said Gehringer.

The two moms proudly witnessed their idea come to life on May 12, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony of two lactation rooms: one on the sixth floor of the main Edgecomb Courthouse at 800 East Twiggs Street, and another on the fourth floor of the Criminal Courthouse Annex at 401 N. Jefferson Street.

The lactation rooms are available to all nursing or pumping mothers at the courthouses, including attorneys, professional staff, jurors, and members of the public.

Before, mothers who needed to pump their milk or nurse their babies were accommodated in a vacant office or a conference room.

This setup is better, both moms agree, because there is now a designated space to go, in a private, softly lit room with comfortable chairs, a locking door, and electrical outlet. One room even has an attached bathroom.

Nursing mothers know firsthand that a relaxing atmosphere makes the process easier.

“If you are stressed or anxious, it’s not nearly as easy. This will be a clean, comfortable space, and you won’t have to worry about someone barging in,” said Gehringer.

“Before, someone would be faced with uncertainty: ‘Where am I going to pump? Who will I ask?’” said Siara.

“Another nice thing about it is a woman won’t have to advertise her need to nurse or pump,” said Siara. “You could see a situation where a juror would have to go to a male bailiff and explain, ‘I have to take care of this.’ So, now, there is more of a comfort factor. All she has to do is go to the information desk.”

While these staff attorneys in the 13th Circuit got the idea from reading about the 11th Circuit, and there may be a few other lactation rooms scattered around other Florida courthouses, both Gehringer and Siara say they hope what they’re doing in Tampa will set a good example for other circuits.

[Revised: 12-16-2017]