A Mississippi judge who barred a mother from seeing her baby for 14 months has stepped down.
Pearl Youth Court Judge John Shirley had come under fire from activists after imposing the 14-month no-contact order on a Jackson mother, according to the Clarion-Ledger. Following that pressure, Shirley has announced his resignation.
The order was issued after the mother and a friend were both pulled over by a police officer while they were driving around looking for work. The officer arrested them on outstanding warrants for misdemeanor services and told the Mississippi Department of Human Services that the 4-month-old who had been in the car with the two women was “abandoned.”
However, it was the arrest itself that had separated the child from its mother.
Then, Judge Shirley awarded custody of the child to its grandparents and ordered that the mother could not come into contact with the child until she had paid off her court fees.
While it is not certain how much money the woman owed, legal justice advocates said that no amount of legal fees justified the separation.
“As a civil rights lawyer in Mississippi, I am no stranger to injustice, but for a judge to prohibit an impoverished mother from having any contact with her baby until monetary payments are made is shocking and repugnant,” said Cliff Johnson, the director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law. “Such orders are tantamount to judicial kidnapping.”