California Prison System Issues First of its Kind Policy in Response to Ad Astra Litagation

Author: Herman J. Hoying

Yesterday, in response to pro bono litigation handled by Ad Astra Senior Counsel Herman Hoying, the California prison system became the first in the country to issue a policy providing guidelines for sex reassignment surgery as a treatment option for transgender inmates.  Ad Astra, along with co-counsel the Transgender Law Center and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, represent two transgender inmates, Michelle-Lael Norsworthy and Shiloh Quine, seeking access to adequate medical care and equitable treatment under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The State’s policy comes on the heels of two extraordinary victories in the lawsuits.  In April 2015, the Northern District of California issued an unprecedented preliminary injunction requiring the California prison system to provide Ms. Norsworthy with sex reassignment surgery “as promptly as possible.”  The State subsequently released Ms. Norsworthy on parole the day before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was set to hear its appeal of that decision.  In August 2015, the State agreed to a settlement in Ms. Quine’s case, pursuant to which it agreed to provide her with sex reassignment surgery and to revise its policies with regard to sex reassignment surgery and transgender inmates’ access to gender-specific personal property.  The Quine settlement constituted the first time any state has agreed to provide sex reassignment surgery for an inmate.

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