Cooley Helps Achieve Landmark Victory for Transgender Prisoner

Firm persuades US Supreme Court to let injunction stand in Eighth Amendment suit

Washington, DC – October 26, 2020 – The US Supreme Court left in place a federal court decision that ordered the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) to provide medically necessary gender-confirmation surgery to Adree Edmo, a transgender woman incarcerated in Idaho. Cooley lawyers Elizabeth Prelogar, Kathleen Hartnett and Barrett Anderson aided in the successful effort to persuade the Supreme Court to deny review, ensuring that the decisions protecting the plaintiff’s constitutional rights would remain in place.

Ms. Edmo is a transgender woman who suffers from severe gender dysphoria and needed urgent access to medically necessary gender-confirmation surgery. After IDOC denied her that medical care, she filed a lawsuit and sought an order compelling IDOC to provide the surgery. The district court granted her request, finding that IDOC’s refusal to provide the medically necessary treatment “constitutes deliberate indifference to Ms. Edmo’s serious medical needs and violates her rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” After the Ninth Circuit affirmed that order, IDOC asked the Supreme Court to intervene and grant review. With the Supreme Court’s rejection of IDOC’s petition for review, the lower court decisions vindicating Ms. Edmo’s constitutional rights will stand undisturbed.

“A state cannot subject people in its custody to cruel and unusual punishment, including by failing to treat serious medical conditions,” said Amy Whelan, senior staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a news release. “This ruling is in line with longstanding medical evidence and with legal rulings across the country that it is dangerous and unconstitutional to deny transgender people access to medically necessary care in prison.”

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court denied IDOC’s attempt to halt Ms. Edmo’s surgery while the Court considered IDOC’s petition. She received the surgery in July 2020 and is now housed at a women’s prison for the remainder of her sentence. Following Ms. Edmo’s surgery, IDOC argued that the Supreme Court should declare the case moot and vacate the lower court decisions. The Cooley team helped oppose that alternative effort and ultimately persuaded the court to deny all of IDOC’s requests.

“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court preserved the well-reasoned and factually-supported decisions by the District of Idaho and the Ninth Circuit,” said Prelogar. “Not only did Adree receive the medical treatment that she urgently needed, but future transgender litigants in the same position will hopefully find that they, too, will have access to proper care.”

Cooley represented Ms. Edmo in the Supreme Court along with NCLR, Rifkin Law Office, Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai, Ferguson Durham, Jenner & Block and the MacArthur Justice Center. 

Cooley partners with local and national legal services organizations, including numerous organizations that focus on LGBTQ+ rights, to represent hundreds of pro bono clients annually. Through its pro bono work, Cooley empowers individuals to seek justice and opportunity and provides nonprofit organizations the tools they need to effect change and support underserved communities.

Read the full press release from NCLR

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Related Contacts
Kathleen R. Hartnett  Partner San Francisco
Barrett J. Anderson  Associate San Diego
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Pro Bono