JUDGE DELAYS HEARING ON TODDLER
More advice sought in circumcision case
BY KATE COSCARELLI
A hearing in Superior Court in Somerville to determine if circumcision is medically warranted for a 3-year-old was postponed yesterday because additional doctors must still examine the toddler.
Matthew Price's parents cannot agree if circumcision is the best way to treat recurring irritations to his foreskin. His mother, Jennifer Price of Clinton, now wants him to undergo the surgery as a way to alleviate the irritations. James Price of Raritan, his father, is adamantly opposed, citing trauma from his own penile surgeries. The parents have joint custody.
The case, a part of the Prices' divorce proceedings, has attracted national attention from medical societies, legal scholars and media outlets because it could affect how doctors treat patients and how parents raise their children.
In August, Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong ruled the boy could be circumcised, and an Appellate Division panel upheld that decision.
However, the Supreme Court suggested full testimony should be heard on the matter. That hearing, meant to determine if the procedure is "medically necessary," was set to begin in Armstrong's courtroom yesterday.
Before the announcement of postponement, Armstrong ruled the case should remain open to the public.
"I cannot think of anything that could be a more private fact than if an individual is circumcised or not," said Edward O'Donnell, the court-appointed attorney to represent Matthew.
Ronald Heymann, who represents Jennifer Price, joined his argument that the boy could be shamed if he found out later about the proceedings.
Attorneys for The Star-Ledger and the Courier News successfully argued the public had a right to observe the proceedings as a way to better understand the final decision.
"The public has the right to scrutinize the judicial process," said Donald Robinson, attorney for The Star-Ledger.
Julie Marino, who represents the toddler's father, also argued the hearing should remain open because the boy's personal information was already widely known.
The judge said that if the information had not already been distributed by attorneys for the Prices, he might have considered closing the court "in hopes of thwarting future psychological harm and embarrassment."
However, the public has a right to observe the decision-making process, especially given the public and controversial nature of the issue, he said.
O'Donnell said he would appeal the decision. He has 10 days to file the request with the Appellate Division.
Kate Coscarelli covers the Somerset County courts. She may be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or (908)429-3017.
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