May 20, 2015
Circumcision battle: Mom seeks release from jail after federal lawsuit is dismissedBy Marc Freeman
A West Boynton mother on Wednesday gave up trying to get a federal judge to stop her 4 1/2-year-old son from being circumcised as his father wishes — a battle that also led to her arrest May 14 on a state court warrant.
An attorney for Heather Hironimus, who lost similar legal challenges in two state courts, notified U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra that she voluntarily dismissed the month-old case, and would be barred from filing it again in federal court.
But at the same time, the 31-year-old mother remained behind bars, charged with interfering with the father's custody of the boy in violation of an order from Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen.
Hironimus — held in Broward County Jail since her arrest after nearly three months of hiding with the boy at a domestic violence shelter — is expected in Gillen's Delray Beach courtroom early Friday. The judge previously said that her get-out-of-jail ticket will be her signature of consent to her son's circumcision. Thomas Hunker, attorney for the mother, told her supporters that his mission now is to try to "Heather get out of jail and preserve her custody rights." Hunker said they quit the federal lawsuit because it appeared hopeless, in light of a hearing Monday where the judge repeatedly questioned the justification for a case already decided by state judges.
"Unfortunately, Judge Marra was not only not sympathetic, he seemed quite hostile toward our position," the attorney wrote in a message shared by circumcision opponents and posted on a Facebook page dedicated to the boy and his mom.
Hunker could not be reached for comment despite calls and an email to his office Wednesday. Previously, he has said he couldn't speak because of a gag order imposed by Gillen.
In his message, he said continuing the federal lawsuit would surely result in "an unfavorable order which could potentially hurt the cause and future efforts to establish a child's right to object to circumcision. I hope you understand and agree that under the circumstances, this was our only available option."
Ira Marcus, attorney for the boy's father, Dennis Nebus of Boca Raton, told the Sun Sentinel he was stunned to learn the case had been withdrawn. He said he gave the news to his client, who took custody of his son when Hironimus was jailed but had not yet attempted to schedule the surgery.
"I'm shocked because they were so aggressive about their position," Marcus said, referring to the mother and her attorney's numerous case pleadings and arguments in court Monday. ["Aggressive" or just thorough?]
Hironimus' sudden decision to quit sparked a wave of anger and sadness among anti-circumcision groups, called "intactivists." They have followed the debate for more than a year, raising money for the mom's legal fund and championing her efforts at local rallies and through social media.
"I am very disappointed that the attorney for the child precipitously abandoned the federal lawsuit," said Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, who attended Monday's federal court hearing. "What we hope for now is that the father will have compassion for his young son, and not compound the trauma of the past few months with the trauma of a medically unnecessary surgery."
Hunker had urged Marra to protect the boy from "physical harm," brain damage or worse from an elective procedure that allegedly violates his constitutional rights.
"This is a potentially life-and-death situation," Hunker said, arguing the child doesn't respond well to general anesthesia and is prone to scarring that could further harm his genitals if he survives. He said the removal of the foreskin from the boy's penis is not "reversible" and violates his right to bodily "integrity."
Hunker, revising claims already made in state court, also said the boy's civil rights were violated because he hasn't had a psychological examination or an independent guardian to speak on his behalf in court, as the mother requested.