On January 24, 2006, several transgender state prisoners in Wisconsin state prisons filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Division. The Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to redress Defendants' violations of their rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs were represented by attorneys from the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., the ACLU Foundation, Inc., the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, Inc., and private counsel.
Plaintiffs claim violation of the Constitution in enforcing "2005 Wisconsin Act 105," a recent state statute that barred use of state tax money for hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery for prison inmates and others in state custody. Plaintiffs stated that Defendants' enforcement of the statute abruptly terminated and deprived them of medical treatment for their serious health conditions related to "Gender Identity Disorder," with no exercise whatsoever of individualized medical judgment and in contrast to the treatment Defendants provided to other similarly situated inmates at Wisconsin Department of Corrections ("DOC") facilities. Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief to end the violation of their equal protection rights and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, pursuant to the Fourteenth and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and a declaration that "2005 Wisconsin Act 105" is unconstitutional on its face.
On January 27, 2006, the Court (District Judge Charles N. Clevert, Jr.), granted a preliminary injunction in response to Plaintiffs' emergency request. He directed Defendants to resume hormone therapy to Plaintiffs at the level provided prior to reduced dosages given by Defendants in anticipation of full compliance with the statute. Judge Clevert denied Plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order, finding that such an order was unneeded since the state had been able to participate in the emergency proceedings, which were held by telephone. Discovery and pretrial proceedings ensued in the following months.
Plaintiffs were also successful on July 12, 2007, when their motion for a refund of filing fees was granted. Their counsel had earlier paid filing fees on behalf of each plaintiff as they were added to the case via amended complaints, but counsel later concluded that the Prison Litigation Reform Act's provision for payment of filing fees per litigant did not govern this case. Judge Clevert agreed in an unpublished order stating that, under the plain language of the statute, only prisoners seeking to proceed in forma pauperis are required to pay filing fees individually. These plaintiffs never moved for such status, so the standard rule of one fee per lawsuit applied, according to the judge.
Plaintiffs' motion to have their case certified as a class action was denied by Judge Clevert on February 16, 2007. Later, Judge Clevert also denied Plaintiffs' motion to file a Fourth Amended Complaint, and their motion to reconsider certification of modified class definition.
On October 15, 2007, Judge Clevert granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment.
On March 31, 2010, in a related case, Fields v. Smith, Judge Clevert issued an order declaring Wis. Stat. § 302.386(5m) unconstitutional and enjoined the enforcement of the statute. The court concluded that Defendants' application of Wis. Stat. § 302.386(5m) constituted deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment inasmuch as enforcement of the statute results in the denial of hormone therapy without regard for the individual medical needs of inmates and the medical judgment of their health care providers. The court further found Wis. Stat. § 302.386(5m) unconstitutional on its face under the Eighth Amendment because it bans the use of any Wisconsin State resources or federal funds passing through the government to provide hormone therapy and, thereby, requires the withdrawal of any such ongoing hormone therapy for inmates in DOC facilities without regard for the medical need for that treatment. The court further found that Wis. Stat. § 302.386(5m) prevents DOC medical personnel from evaluating inmates for treatment because such evaluation would be futile in light of the statute's ban on such hormone therapy. Furthermore, the application of Wis. Stat. § 302.386(5m) violates Plaintiffs' constitutional right to equal protection because there is no rational basis for treating Plaintiffs differently than similarly situated inmates. A Memorandum Decision was issued on May 13, 2010.
Defendants appealed the case to the Seventh Circuit. The case was heard and taken under advisement by panel on February 07, 2011.
On August 5, 2011, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Judges Rovner, Wood and Gottschall) affirmed the judgment of the District Court, ruling that the 2005 Wisconsin law violates the constitution, and striking it down in its entirety.
On March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the case, leaving the 7th Circuit Court's decision standing.Xin Chen - 05/22/2011