Schmidt v. Niznik

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Schmidt v. Niznik, Cook County Illinois, NO. 00 D 18272 (2006) is a court case about the proposed circumcision of an eight-year-old boy in Chicago.

Mr. Niznick and Ms. Schmidt were formerly married. They had a son. They divorced and the former Mrs. Niznick received custody of the boy. The divorce agreement required her to consult with Mr. Niznick regarding any non-emergency health care services for the child.

Ms. Schmidt remarried to a Jewish man.[1] Her new husband thought that his step-son should be circumcised so that he would match his circumcised step-brother. The 31-year-old Slovakian-born mother,[2] now known as Mrs. Rovin, secretly scheduled a non-therapeutic circumcision for her son to please her new husband in violation of the divorce decree.[3][4]

Mr. Niznick only found out about the circumcision a few days before it was to occur in February 2006 when his son told him during a scheduled visitation that he was to have surgery on his penis.[4]


Mr. Niznik retained renowned circumcision lawyer David J. Llewellyn of Atlanta, Georgia to represent him and they filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. Mr. Llewellyn was supported by local counsel Lake, Toback & D'Arco. The Polish-born father, a 49-year-old building manager from Arlington Heights, immediately asked Judge Jordan Kaplan to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the circumcision of his son, pending a trial, which was granted.[2][3]

Drs. Van Howe and Gibbon served as expert witnesses for the father, while Drs. Hatch and Goldstein served as expert witnesses for the mother, a 31-year-old homemaker from Northbrook, represented by Tracy Rizzo.[3][4][5]

She claimed that the boy had balanitis which she alleged would make his circumcision a necessary medical treatment, however it was shown that the boy had been swimming in heavily clorinated swimming pools, which caused the irritation. The boy did not have balanitis, so he did not need a circumcision. Even if he did have balanitis, there is more conservative treatment available than radical, destructive circumcision, it was shown.[4]

Dr. Van Howe testified the boy the boy had a "normal, non-diseased foreskin" and Dr. Hatch also affirmed the boy had a "normal non-diseased foreskin".[4]

It was brought out that circumcision risks serious psychological damage.[4]

Judge Kaplan ruled on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 that the now nine-year-old boy should not be circumcised. In his ruling, he described circumcision as "an extraordinary medical procedure as it relates to a nine-year-old child". He issued an injunction to block the procedure and to protect the boy from circumcision until he turns 18 and can decide for himself.[6][7] [8]


The decision of the trial judge was not appealed to a higher court so the decision of the trial court stands.[8]

Doctors Opposing Circumcision (D.O.C.) (2006) commented that the ruling protected the boy's legal right to bodily integrity.[7] Doctors Opposing Circumcision (D.O.C.), later cited this case as a precedent in an amicus curiae brief filed with the Oregon Supreme Count in the case of Boldt v. Boldt in 2007.

Jonathan Bernaerts (2014) commented on this case on page 83 of his thesis. Schmidt v. Niznik (2006) is believed to be the first American legal case to recognize the right of a male child to genital autonomy — the right to decide for one's self about surgical operations and reconfiguration of one's genital organs.[1]


  1. a b REFdocument Bernaerts, Jonathan Alfons J: The Cologne Judgment: a curiosity or the start sign for condemning circumcision of male children without their consent as a human rights violation? PDF, European Commission. (2014). Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  2. a b REFnews Peres, Judy (17 February 2006)."Circumcision decision delayed by court", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  3. a b c REFweb Svoboda, J. Steven. ARC Newsletter. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  4. a b c d e f REFweb Respondent’s Closing Argument. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  5. REFnews Peres, Judy (13 June 2006)."Doctors differ on circumcision need", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  6. REFnews Johnson, Carla (24 October 2006)."Judge takes father's side in circumcision feud", Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  7. a b REFnews (25 October 2006)."Judge rules 9-year-old need not get circumcised.", Reuters. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  8. a b REFnews Peres, Judy (24 October 2006)."Judge rules against boy’s circumcision", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 6 May 2020.