When Rebecca Firlit attended a virtual child custody hearing with her ex-husband on Aug. 10, the first thing Cook County Judge James Shapiro asked was whether she was vaccinated.
Firlit, a 39-year-old desk clerk, explained that she had "adverse reactions in the past and was advised not to get vaccinated by her doctor. It poses a risk."
But the judge revoked her custody until she got the vaccine that poses a risk to her health.
Firlit's attorney, Annette Fernholz, immediately filed an appeal of the judge's order. Fernholz said her client has been divorced seven years and she and her ex share custody.
Firlit told the Sun-Times she thought the hearing would cover child support and child expenses - not custody.
"One of the first things he asked me when I got on the Zoom call was whether or not I was vaccinated, which threw me off because I asked him what it had to do with the hearing," Firlit said.
"I was confused because it was just supposed to be about expenses and child support. I asked him what it had to do with the hearing, and he said, 'I am the judge, and I make the decisions for your case.'"
Firlit said she hopes an appellate court will rule in her favor because she believes the judge overreached his judicial authority.
She said the only contact she has had with her son since Aug. 10 is by phone.
"I talk to him every day. He cries, he misses me. I send him care packages," she said.
Fernholz said she hopes an appellate court gets involved this week and reverses Shapiro's ruling.
"It's very much exceeding his judicial authority," she said.
Jeffrey Leving, who represents Firlit's ex-husband, told the Sun-Times he was not expecting the judge to ask about vaccinations. However, the father - who is fully vaccinated - agrees with the judge's decision.
"We support the judge's decision," Leving said, before adding they will fight Firlit's appeal.