Nebus v. Hironimus

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Heather Hironimus
handcuffed and crying
signs "consent form"

Nebus vs. Hironimus is a current case in South Florida where two parents have a long drawn fight over the genital integrity of their child.

C.R.N.H. was born in 2010. The parents, Dennis Nebus and Heather Hironimus, were never married. In December of 2010, Nebus filed for paternity.

Parental agreement

A parenting agreement was filed in January of 2012. In the agreement, Hironimus agreed to the circumcision, which Nebus was to schedule and pay for in a timely manner. C.R.N.H. was slightly over one year of age at the time. Nebus, however, did not move to schedule the circumcision.[1]

State case

In 2014, Nebus decided to move ahead with the circumcision. By then, Hironimus had researched the topic of circumcision and decided that she didn't want her son to be subjected to the procedure. Hironimus claimed that in a previous surgery C.R.N.H. had problems waking from the anesthesia, and she feared that the mandatory general anesthesia could cause the child's death. C.R.N.H. had also shown to have scarring issues, which also create a concern for the circumcision.

Nebus claimed that C.R.N.H. wet his leg during urination, something he attributed to phimosis and expected to cure with the circumcision.

A medical expert, Dr. Charles Flack, testified that C.R.N.H. had no need for the circumcision. Flack also listed some of the common benefits, including the (incorrect) statement that penile cancer only occurs on uncircumcised males, and the claim reduction of HIV infection.

On May of 2014, Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen sided with the father, suggesting that the procedure can be performed with local anesthesia (which is not the case) and ignoring an important change in circumstances: at 3 and 1/2 years, C.R.N.H. is already aware of his body and afraid of a surgery, which increases the risk for trauma and psychological harm.

Gillen ordered Hironimus to sign the consent forms, and stated that if she did not sign, Nebus signature would suffice to perform the procedure. Gillen also ordered Hironimus not to express in any way to C.R.N.H. her disagreement with the circumcision.

Hironimus set up a donation page to fund an appeal. Nebus objected to the fundraiser. A gag order was imposed. Intactivists then set up their own fundraiser to help Hironimus appeal.[2]

State case appeal

On Thursday, November 6th, the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach denied her motion without a written opinion, closing the possibility for a second appeal.[3]

Domestic violence center

In February of 2015, Nebus tried to schedule a pre-surgical appointment with Doctor Subhash Puranik from Plantation, Florida, without letting Hironimus know in advance. Hironimus and her now 4-year-old son sought refuge at a domestic violence shelter in an undisclosed location, stating that she fears for her son’s psychological well-being and requesting an attorney appointed to represent him before he can have the operation.

Intactivists protested outside the offices of Dr. Puranik on February 23.[4]

Nebus filed for contempt of court. Judge Gillen set March 10 as a deadline for Hironimus to appear in court with C.R.N.H. before he sign a warrant for her arrest.[5]

Writ of bodily attachment

On March 10th of 2015, Hironimus failed to appear in court. Judge Gillen was informed that Hironimus was at a domestic violence shelter fearing for her son and the psychological harm he could endure as a result of the procedure. Judge Gillen signed a writ of bodily attachment, calling Hironimus' fears "irrelevant at this point".[6]

Federal case

Attorney Thomas Hunker filed a federal lawsuit in the name of C.R.N.H. naming Dennis Nebus, Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen and sheriff Ric Bradshaw as defendants, and seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the circumcision from taking place before the case went to court. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra.[7]


After 81 days at the domestic violence shelter, Hironimus was arrested on May 14th and C.R.N.H. was handed to Nebus.[8] Judge Marra called for an audience on May 18th to define the legal procedure.

Federal case audience

On May 18th, an audience took place to determine the legal aspects of the federal case. Hironimus was unable to appear as she was in jail. Judge Marra questioned attorney Thomas Hunker whether this was in fact a new case, or a rewording of the state case.[9]

Motion to dismiss federal case

On May 20th, attorney Thomas Hunker filed a Withdrawal of Motion and Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of the federal case with prejudice -meaning that it is dismissed permanently and cannot be brought back to court.[10]

Back to state court

On May 22th, Hironimus appeared before Judge Gillen, who demanded she signed the consent form for circumcision. Hironimus initially declined. Gillen informed her that she would be detained indefinitely until she signs the agreement. Hironimus then changed her mind, and signed the papers handcuffed and visibly altered. Photos of her signature focused on the distressed expression of Hironimus.

The attorney for Nebus requested permission to remove C.R.N.H. from Florida in order to schedule the circumcision, arguing that the involvement from the intactivist community created particular risks and made the scheduling of the procedure more difficult. The previous parental agreement is now void, and Nebus is not required to inform Hironimus of the procedure, in advance or afterwards.[11]

Criminal charges

Once signed the papers, Hironimus was no longer in contempt of the court. However she was not released that day from jail, as criminal charges raised by Sheriff Ric Bradshaw (a defendant in the now dismissed federal case) were now pending.

Release from jail

Hironimus was not to be released until her first appearance in a criminal court, set for May 26 (which meant she would spend Memorial day weekend in jail). However, an audience took place on Saturday May 23th, allowing for her release from jail that same day in the afternoon.[12]

Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital

On June 8th, Thomas Hunker filed an urgent motion seeking an injunction to halt the procedure, scheduled by Nebus to be performed by Dr. Gary Birken at the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital on Thursday June 11th.

The motion claimed that medical records said the boy has pain and inflammation in his penis and said she was concerned because the boy didn’t have these symptoms before custody was transferred from her to the father, Dennis Nebus, 47, of Boca Raton.

She is concerned that “someone may have harmed the child’s genitals in order to produce these symptoms,” the motion said.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jessica Ticktin (replacing Judge Gillen since June 1st) denied the motion on June 9th.

External links


  1. REFweb Deirdra, Funcheon (14 May 2014). Florida Mom Fights Court Order to Circumcise Her 3-Year-Old Son, Broward Palm Beach New Times. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  2. REFweb Freeman, Marc (19 July 2014). Courts hear parents battle over circumcision, Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  3. REFweb Freeman, Marc (28 May 2015). Appellate court won't halt circumcision for 4-year-old Palm Beach County boy, Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  4. REFnews (23 February 2015)."Circumcision of Four-Year-Old Boy Scheduled, Protesters Target Surgeon", Jewish Business News. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  5. REFweb Freeman, Marc (10 March 2015). Judge orders West Boynton mom's arrest in circumcision case, Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  6. REFweb Musgrave, Jane (11 March 2015). Warrant issued for Boynton woman who won’t allow son’s circumcision, Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  7. REFweb Jauregui, Andres (16 April 2015). Heather Hironimus Files Federal Suit To Block Son's Court-Ordered Circumcision, Huffington Post. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  8. REFweb Sedensky, Matt (15 May 2015). Mom Arrested Who Fled Objecting to Circumcision, US News. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  9. REFweb Freeman, Marc (19 May 2015). Federal judge hears bid to block circumcision, Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  10. REFweb Sedensky, Matt (20 May 2015). Federal complaint dismissed over Florida boy's circumcision, Fox 10 TV. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  11. REFweb Lafi, Louarbi (22 May 2015). Crying and shackled, mother consents to son’s circumcision after being jailed, Reuters. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  12. REFweb Sydney Lupkin & Emily Shapiro (24 May 2015). Florida Mom Released From Jail After Circumcision Dispute, ABC News. Retrieved 28 May 2015.