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Illinois judge recuses after allowing unvaccinated mom to see son; dad plans to block visit

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An Illinois judge recused himself Tuesday from a child support case in which he initially barred an unvaccinated woman from seeing her son, then reversed the order Monday after it started to get media attention. 

“Although I believe I can be fair and impartial, the Canons of Judicial Ethics speak to the perception of fairness and impartiality as well as fairness and impartiality itself,” Cook County Judge James Shapiro said in a statement, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. 

“Public perception may be that I can’t be fair and impartial. Therefore, I am going to recuse myself from further proceedings in this case,” Shapiro continued.

Rebecca Firlit told Shapiro in an early August hearing that she had not gotten vaccinated against the coronavirus because she was advised against it by a doctor due to adverse reactions vaccines had caused her in the past, FOX 32 in Chicago reported. 

The judge then revoked Firlit’s right to see her 11-year-old son until she got the vaccine – only to reverse his decision after it was reported in the press and widely criticized. 

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“I think there’s been a lot of media outcry,” Firlit’s attorney, Annette Fernholz, said. “The divorce bar here in Illinois has been responding when they saw it on the news.”

Firlit said she and her husband have been divorced for several years and share custody of their son. 

Rebecca Firlit and her son (FOX 32 Chicago)

Rebecca Firlit and her son (FOX 32 Chicago)

Meanwhile, Firlit’s ex-husband Matthew Duiven said he plans to file an emergency motion to keep her from their son due to her unvaccinated status and her “volatility” in court, according to the Sun-Times. 

Firlit expects to see her son for the first time in nearly a month on Wednesday and will have until the afternoon to file an objection to it being an “emergency” motion, FOX 32 reported. 

In at least two other child support hearings this summer Shapiro admitted to ordering parents and eligible children to be vaccinated, the Sun-Times reported. 

Firlit said she “was surprised” by the judge’s Monday reversal, “but my reaction is I’m grateful.”

The attorney representing her son, however, contends that the judge’s initial decision to bar Firlit from seeing him was more complicated than her refusing the vaccine. 

“The judge needs to look out for the best interest of the child,” said attorney Michael Bender, saying Firlit’s behavior during the hearing was “volatile.”

“He was seeing something that clearly said to him, ‘There is an endangerment to the child right now.’ And we’re gonna act on it,” Bender said.

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Firlit has pushed back on the claim, saying her behavior during the hearing did not play a role in the judge’s initial decision. 

“It definitely was not a reason to take my child away from me,” Firlit said. “I’m not an endangerment to him. Nothing was filed about that. Nothing that we were in the hearing for had anything to do with it.”

Fox News’ Emma Colton contributed to this report.

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