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Representing Plaintiff(s) · Pending

Kosilek v. Spencer

Update, March 16, 2015 - GLAD, attorney Joseph L. Sulman, and Goodwin Procter LLP have filed a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition asserts that the First Circuit Court of Appeals overstepped its role with its December 2014 en banc ruling that, in vacating the earlier panel decision favorable to Kosilek, improperly retried the facts of the 2012 trial, and applied the wrong standard of legal review. Read more

(Note: the petition for cert was filed as Kosilek v. O'Brien, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Correction)

Update, December 16, 2014 - The full First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the earlier ruling that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must provide Michelle Kosilek, an incarcerated transgender woman, medically-necessary gender reassignment surgery. Read GLAD's statement.

Update, March 2014 - GLAD submitted a brief to the First Circuit Court of Appeals for the rehearing en banc.

Update, February 2014 - The Commonwealth's request for rehearing en banc was granted by the Court. Oral argument is set for May 8.

January 17, 2014 - GLAD welcomed the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the Commonwealth cannot deny Michelle Kosilek, an incarcerated transgender woman, gender reassignment surgery to treat her severe gender identity disorder. Read GLAD's full statement on the ruling and see Kosilek v. Spencer: Questions and Answers.

The case was argued before the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on April 2, 2013, after the Commonwealth appealed Wolf’s ruling. Joseph L. Sulman and David Brody of the Law Office of Joseph L. Sulman are representing Kosilek. 

Kosilek was denied reassignment surgery by the Department of Corrections (DOC) against the recommendations of multiple doctors hired by DOC. In ruling last fall that DOC violated Kosilek’s 8th amendment right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf found that DOC engaged in a pattern of “pretense, pretext and prevarication” to deny her treatment. 

That pattern of pretense, pretext, and prevarication, GLAD believes cannot be allowed to erode core constitutional commitments to the health and safety of anyone who is incarcerated including, in this case, a transgender woman serving a life sentence.  The denial of necessary medical care to Michelle Kosilek amounted to nothing more than transgender exceptionalism.

Like the district court before it, the First Circuit affirmed in it's ruling that constitutional rights belong to everyone. 

GLAD filed an amicus brief in the appeal describing the pervasive stigma and discrimination associated with transgender people in general, and with gender reassignment surgery, specifically - and has since taken on the role of co-counsel in the case following  the departure of Kosilek's long-term attorney, Frances S. Cohen, from her firm Bingham McCutcheon.