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Case Name Kosilek v. Spencer PC-MA-0038
Docket / Court 00-12455-MLW ( D. Mass. )
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization GLAD
Case Summary
On December 12, 2000, a transgender inmate at the Massachusetts Correction Institute in Norfolk filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Filing pro se, the plaintiff sued the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, the Correctional Medical Services, and the ... read more >
On December 12, 2000, a transgender inmate at the Massachusetts Correction Institute in Norfolk filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Filing pro se, the plaintiff sued the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, the Correctional Medical Services, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The inmate sought injunctive relief and damages to be determined by the jury, alleging violations of her constitutional rights and immunities due to, among others, failure to provide her with adequate medical treatment for her serious medical need, which was severe gender identity disorder. Specifically, the inmate sought injunctive relief to require the DOC to provide appropriate medical care in accordance with the standards of care for a gender identity disorder, which could include hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery.

The case is essentially a continuation of Kosilek v. Nelson. This case can be found in the Clearinghouse here. In Kosilek v. Nelson, the same plaintiff filed pro se a lawsuit against the Sheriff of the Bristol County and the Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts under the same allegations of failure to provide medical services for the inmate's gender identity disorder. The Court in Kosilek v. Nelson (Judge Mark Wolf) ruled that the plaintiff's gender identity disorder constituted serious medical need, which was not adequately treated, but nevertheless stated that the Commissioner of the DOC was not liable for constitutional violations because there was no deliberate indifference to the medical needs of the plaintiff, but said that the Commissioner was then on notice and will provide adequate treatment for the plaintiff's need. Kosilek v. Maloney, 221 F. Supp. 2d 156 (D. Mass. 2002). No injunction, or any other action by the DOC was ordered. The decision in that case bears substantial influence on the outcome of the present case.

The present case was stayed August 7, 2001, until the resolution of the aforementioned case. The Court (Judge Mark Wolf) then issued several other orders, maintaining stay and requesting the parties to inform the court if the stay should be lifted and why. Subsequently, over several years, the plaintiff and the defendants filed several status reports on whether the claim should be dismissed.

On June 6, 2005, the plaintiff and the Correctional Medical Services entered a stipulation of dismissal, dismissing the claims against them without prejudice and costs and waiving right of appeal. On July 1, 2005, the University of Massachusetts Medical School and its medical officers entered into a similar stipulation of dismissal with the plaintiff, dismissing all the claims without prejudice and costs and waiving right of appeal.

On July 15, 2005, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint, alleging inadequate medical care for the plaintiff's gender identity disorder, against the Commissioner of the DOC and various employees and officers of the DOC. The complaint specified that after the decision in Kosilek v. Nelson, the plaintiff had received treatment for the disorder from medical practitioners, including hormone therapy, and had been evaluated and recommended for sex reassignment surgery, but the DOC had interfered with the treatment by denying her the surgery and hiring its own medical practitioners, who did not recommend the surgery. The plaintiff sought injunctive relief, enjoining the defendants to provide her with adequate medical care for her gender identity disorder based on the recommendations of medical practitioners, including sex reassignment surgery. The plaintiff was now represented by private counsel and also sought an award of attorney's fees.

The non-jury trial, presided over by Judge Mark Wolf, began on May 30, 2006. The trial ended in May 2008 and the court did not hear anymore testimony. However, the court continued to hear arguments of the parties over the next three years.

Finally, the Court (Judge Mark Wolf) issued its decision, finding a violation of the Eight Amendment by the defendant, on September 4, 2012. The Court pointed out that it expressed that it expected that adequate care will be provided to the plaintiff after the DOC was on notice in Kosilek v. Nelson. The Court ruled that the plaintiff still has a severe gender identity disorder that was not adequately treated, and posed severe risk of harm to the plaintiff. The reasons for inadequate treatment served no legitimate purpose, and the Commissioner claims of security concerns were pretextual. The plaintiff had been living as a woman in the prison for some time without any security issues. The court stated that the Commissioner was motivated by concerns of controversy and criticism. Therefore, based on the testimony of the medical experts, the Court concluded that the only adequate treatment was sex reassignment surgery and issued an injunction to provide the plaintiff with the surgery. Kosilek v. Spencer. 889 F.Supp.2d 190 (D. Mass 2012). The possible award of attorney's fees was reserved for future consideration.

On September 16, 2012, the Court issued an order that the parties must meet at least once to discuss a resolution of the question of the award of attorney's fees. Kosilek v. Spencer, 891 F.Supp.2d 226 (D. Mass. 2012). The motion for attorney's fees was filed by the plaintiff on October 10, 2012.

The defendant appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals on October 2, 2012. He also filed a motion for the stay of execution of the final judgment, which was granted on November 20, 2012, under conditions of reporting of the progress in preparation for the sex reassignment surgery.

On December 19, 2012, the Court (Judge Mark Wolf) held a hearing on the motion of attorney's fees.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Ojetta Thompson) issued its decision on January 17, 2014, affirming the decision of the District Court and the injunction to provide the plaintiff with the sex reassignment surgery. However, on February 12, 2014, the Court of Appeals entered an order to rehear the case en banc after the majority of judges voted to do so, withdrawing and vacating its judgment on January 17, 2014.

On May 8, 2014, the Court of Appeals reheard the case. On December 16, 2014, the court decided that, given the positive effects resulting from the DOC's current treatment method and the DOC's plan to treat suicidal ideation if it arose, the DOC's decision not to provide SRS did not illustrate disregard of Plaintiff's medical needs. The court found that the medical care provided to Plaintiff by the DOC met society's minimum standards of decency, that the security concerns the DOC highlighted were reasonable, that the DOC was entitled to deference, and that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate an Eighth Amendment violation.

On May 18, 2015, the Supreme Court denied Plaintiff's petition for a writ of certiorari.

On June 4, 2015, Judge Mark L. Wolf ordered that the case be dismissed.

Zhandos Kuderin - 04/04/2014
Katherine Reineck - 11/01/2015
Daniel Fryer - 02/15/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Gender identity
General
Conditions of confinement
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Personal injury
Suicide prevention
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, general
Self-injurious behaviors
Suicide prevention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Massachusetts Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Transgender prisoner in a male prison
Indexed Lawyer Organizations GLAD
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PC-MA-0039 : Kosilek v. Nelson (D. Mass.)
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
1:00-cv-12455-MLW (D. Mass.) 03/07/2015
PC-MA-0038-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial 11/17/2000
PC-MA-0038-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation of Dismissal 06/01/2005
PC-MA-0038-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation of Dismissal, With Prejudice, Without Costs and With All Rights of Appeal Waived Only with Regard to All Claims Asserted Against the Defendants 07/01/2005
PC-MA-0038-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint 04/16/2010
PC-MA-0038-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order on Eighth Amendment Claim 09/04/2012 (889 F.Supp.2d 190) (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0038-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order 09/16/2012 (891 F.Supp.2d 226) (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0038-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order 11/20/2012 (2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 165852) (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0038-0006.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: LexisNexis
Opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit 01/17/2014 (740 F.3d 733)
PC-MA-0038-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order of Court 02/12/2014 (2014 U.S.App.LEXIS 2660)
PC-MA-0038-0008.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: LexisNexis
Letter [from Kosilek to Dennehy] 08/25/2014
PC-MA-0038-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion en banc [Reversing and Remanding] 12/16/2014 (774 F.3d 63)
PC-MA-0038-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [entered from the U.S. Supreme Court] 05/04/2015
PC-MA-0038-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order 06/04/2015 (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0038-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Howard, Jeffrey R. (First Circuit)
PC-MA-0038-0008 | PC-MA-0038-0010
Kayatta, William Joseph Jr. (First Circuit)
PC-MA-0038-0010
Lynch, Sandra Lea (First Circuit)
PC-MA-0038-0008
Thompson, Ojetta Rogeriee (First Circuit)
PC-MA-0038-0007 | PC-MA-0038-0008 | PC-MA-0038-0008 | PC-MA-0038-0010
Torruella, Juan R. (D.P.R., First Circuit)
PC-MA-0038-0008 | PC-MA-0038-0010
Wolf, Mark Lawrence (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0038-0005 | PC-MA-0038-0006 | PC-MA-0038-0009 | PC-MA-0038-0013 | PC-MA-0038-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brody, David L. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-9000
Chan, Christina Y. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-9000
Cohen, Frances S. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-0002 | PC-MA-0038-0003 | PC-MA-0038-0004 | PC-MA-0038-9000
Craft, Jared A. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-9000
Sulman, Joseph L. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-0004 | PC-MA-0038-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brighton, Anthony R. (New York)
PC-MA-0038-9000
Crawshaw, Victoria A. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-0002 | PC-MA-0038-0003 | PC-MA-0038-9000
Henry, Bruce R. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-9000
Hilton, David A. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-0002 | PC-MA-0038-9000
Kennedy, Joan T. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-9000
McFarland, Richard C. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-0002 | PC-MA-0038-0003 | PC-MA-0038-9000
O'Shea, Stephen M. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0038-0002 | PC-MA-0038-0003 | PC-MA-0038-9000
Other Lawyers Thompson, Ojetta Rogeriee (Rhode Island)
PC-MA-0038-0007 | PC-MA-0038-0008 | PC-MA-0038-0008 | PC-MA-0038-0010

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