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 ...
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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