COURIER NEWS, Bridgewater, NJ, Tuesday, December 5, 2000.

Hearing on boy's surgery public

Staff Writer

Published in the Courier News on December 5, 2000

Proceedings will decide whether a tot should be circumcised Since the controversy has already made headlines, the public can observe the hearings regarding the circumcision of a 3-year-old Central Jersey boy, a state Superior Court judge ruled Monday. The court-appointed attorney for the boy, Edward J. O'Donnell, said he would appeal Judge Paul Armstrong's ruling allowing the hearings to remain open.

The hearings, which were scheduled to begin Monday in Somerville, were postponed until the end of January because of delays with some of the experts expected to testify on whether Matthew Price should be circumcised.

O'Donnell, who gained fame as the attorney for the biological father in the Baby M surrogacy case in the 1980s, petitioned Armstrong to close the proceedings because of future embarrassment and psychological harm to the child.

"I cannot think of anything which would be a more private fact than whether an individual has been circumcised or not," O'Donnell said.

Matthew Price's medical history was made public when his father, Jim Price of Raritan Borough, took his case to the media, pleading that the circumcision, ordered by Armstrong in August, not go forward.

Armstrong had based his opinion on two medical reports that said circumcision would be the best way to alleviate recurring problems Matthew was experiencing.

Mr. Price appealed the decision to the state Superior Court Appellate Division, which denied his request to hold a hearing. But the state Supreme Court took his appeal and sent the case back to Armstrong for a hearing.

The case has drawn national attention, and the Medical Society of New Jersey, along with the Urological Society of New Jersey, filed friends-of-the-court briefs, as did the National Organization of Circumcision Resource Centers, though its brief has yet to be accepted by the court.

Ronald Heymann, attorney for the boy's mother, Jennifer Price of Clinton, who is seeking the surgery, also asked that the proceedings be closed to the public.

"The final decision will have that purpose of notoriety," Heymann said. "That should be kept private for this little boy."

Mr. Price's attorney, Julie Marino, did not file a brief regarding the closure of the hearings, but said in court Monday that the proceedings should be kept open.

Attorneys for the Courier News and the Star Ledger also argued against closing the hearings to the public. Both argued that the issue has been made public already, and closing the hearing would serve only to hurt the public, rather than protect the boy.

Richard Ragsdale, the attorney for the Courier News, said the public interest in the case outweighs the "speculative injury" to Matthew.

And the Star Ledger's lawyer, Donald Robinson, said: "There's no basis for you now to make a finding that there will be embarrassment of any sort."

Armstrong said in his ruling that had the case not been made public, and if the application to close the proceedings been made earlier, he would have ruled differently.

"This court would readily seal the record in hopes of preventing future psychological harm and embarrassment," Armstrong said.

During the hearings, scheduled for Jan. 23, 24, 30 and 31, experts will testify on whether Matthew's best interests would be served by the circumcision.

Doctors Joseph Barone and Grace Calimlim, Matthew's treating physicians on whose reports the judge's initial decision was based, are expected to testify on his mother's behalf. Mr. Price has enlisted Dr. Robert Van Howe, a Wisconsin doctor who has written numerous articles on circumcision. O'Donnell will present testimony from Dr. Robert Pickens, a Princeton pediatric urologist designated as the court's expert.

The hearings were delayed because a supplemental report by Barone had not been released by his attorney, and Van Howe had not yet examined Matthew. He was expected to do so Monday.

from the Courier News

Published on December 5, 2000.

Cite as:
(File prepared 06 December 2000)

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