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Case Name Norsworthy v. Beard PC-CA-0068
Docket / Court 3:14-cv-00695-JST ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On February 14, 2014, the plaintiff, a prisoner in California's Mule Creek State Prison, filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff is transgender and suffers from gender dysphoria. In her complaint, she ... read more >
On February 14, 2014, the plaintiff, a prisoner in California's Mule Creek State Prison, filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff is transgender and suffers from gender dysphoria. In her complaint, she requested injunctive relief against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). She alleged that the state failed to provide her with medically necessary surgery in violation of the Eighth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause. She also requested injunctive relief against the defendants for allegedly failing to allow her to pursue a legal name change, also (she claimed) in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendments.

On April 15, 2014, the District Court (Judge Jon S. Tigar) dismissed the plaintiff's complaint, with leave to amend; the court also referred the matter for appointment of counsel. Norsworthy v. Beard 2014 WL 1477401 (N.D.Cal).

The plaintiff was able to find counsel: the Transgender Law Center along with a private firm; she then filed an amended complaint on July 2, 2014. In it, she relied on the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care, which explained that some individuals are unable to obtain relief from gender dysphoria without surgical intervention, and described sex reassignment surgery (SRS) as "essential and medically necessary" for this group of patients. The plaintiff alleged that she was part of this group.

The State argued that a preliminary injunction was inappropriate in part because the plaintiff did not meet the WPATH eligibility criteria and that the hormone therapy and mental health treatment provided her since 2000 had alleviated her distress. The defendants further argued that the plaintiff had failed to identify a state policy or custom that denied name change requests to transsexual women.

On November 18, 2014, the District Court dismissed the plaintiff's name-change claim without leave to amend. However, the Court concluded that transgender status independently qualifies as a suspect classification under the Equal Protection Clause. The Court therefore held that the plaintiff's allegations, if true, would describe an Equal Protection violation; it accordingly denied the State's motion to dismiss. Norsworthy v. Beard, 2014 WL 6842935 (N.D.Cal) (slightly amended, March 31, 2015, 2015 WL 1478264).

On April 2, 2015, the District Court granted the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction and ordered the defendants to provide the plaintiff with access to adequate medical care, including sex reassignment surgery, because the plaintiff demonstrated a serious medical need when she established that failure to treat her condition could result in further significant injury. The Court did not rule on plaintiff's claim under Equal Protection, reasoning that plaintiff was already likely to succeed on the merits relying on the Eighth Amendment. Norsworthy v. Beard, 2015 WL 1500971 (N.D.Cal).

The State appealed and sought a stay of the injunction from the District Court. The District Court denied that stay motion on April 27, 2015, but on May 21, 2015, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted it. The case is scheduled for argument during the week of August 10, 2015. Norsworthy v. Beard WL 1907518 (N.D.Cal).

Beth Richardson - 06/19/2015


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Gender identity
Sexual orientatation
General
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Suicide prevention
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, unspecified
Suicide prevention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) California Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description A transgender woman incarcerated in Mule Creek State Prison, who requests sexual reassignment surgery and legal name change.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
None yet
Source of Relief Litigation
None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 2015 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
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)
(N.D. Cal.) 05/28/2015
PC-CA-0068-9001.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 02/14/2014
PC-CA-0068-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order of Dismissal without Prejudice 04/15/2014 (2014 WL 1477401 / 2014 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 52205) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0068-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint 07/02/2014
PC-CA-0068-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Motion to Dismiss and Denying Motion to Stay Discovery 11/18/2014 (2014 WL 6842935 / 2014 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 171371) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0068-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Motion to Dismiss and Denying Motion to Stay Discovery 03/31/2015 (87 F.Supp.3d 1104) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0068-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Granting Request for Judicial Notice and Denying Motion to Strike 04/02/2015 (87 F.Supp.3d 1164) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0068-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Motion to Stay, Order Granting Preliminary Injunction 04/27/2015 (2015 WL 1907518 / 2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 54909) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0068-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Tigar, Jon Steven (State Trial Court, N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0068-0004 | PC-CA-0068-0005 | PC-CA-0068-0006 | PC-CA-0068-0007 | PC-CA-0068-0008 | PC-CA-0068-9001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Banks, Christopher J. (California)
PC-CA-0068-0003 | PC-CA-0068-9001
Hoying, Herman Joseph (California)
PC-CA-0068-0003 | PC-CA-0068-9001
Lin, Megan Dy (California)
PC-CA-0068-9001
Long, Ian Thompson (California)
PC-CA-0068-9001
Meerkamper, Shawn Thomas (California)
PC-CA-0068-0003 | PC-CA-0068-9001
Orthwein, Jennifer (California)
PC-CA-0068-0003 | PC-CA-0068-9001
Turner, Ilona Margaret (California)
PC-CA-0068-0003 | PC-CA-0068-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Bajwa, Preeti Kaur (California)
PC-CA-0068-9001
Dodd, Martin H. (California)
PC-CA-0068-9001
Fluet, Edward Rheem (California)
PC-CA-0068-9001
Zelidon-Zepeda, Jose Alfonso (California)
PC-CA-0068-9001
Other Lawyers None on record

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