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Norsworthy v. Beard

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 26, 2014

JEFFREY B. NORSWORTHY, aka, MICHELLE-LAEL B. NORSWORTHY, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, et al., Defendants.

ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITH LEAVE TO AMEND; REFERRING MATTER TO FEDERAL PRO BONO PROJECT AND STAYING PROCEEDINGS PENDING APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, a prisoner currently incarcerated at the Correctional Training Facility ("CTF"), brought this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking an injunction requiring the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") to provide her[1] Sex Reassignment Surgery. Her complaint is now before the Court for review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

DISCUSSION

1. Standard of Review

A federal court must engage in a preliminary screening of any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review the court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See id. at § 1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus , 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations, ... a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id . at 1974.

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated; and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

2. Legal Claims

The following allegations are taken from the complaint. Plaintiff began serving a life sentence within the CDCR in 1987. In 1998 or 1999, a correctional counselor transferred plaintiff to the Department of Mental Health within the California Medical Facility for a Gender Dysphoria Evaluation. The evaluation was conducted from October 1999 to January 2000, at which time, Ph.D. C.R. Viesti, a specialist in Gender/Sexual dysphorias and disorders, concluded that plaintiff is a transsexual suffering from severe Gender Identity Disorder ("GID").

Following the diagnosis in January 2000, plaintiff started feminizing endocrine therapy and psychotherapy. She has remained at "pre-operation dosages and intensity... over the last 14 years." (Compl. at 13.[2]) She has also undergone castration and "has developed and evolved into an extremely feminine, female, and womanly person in form and stature." (Id.) According to "several doctors notes and reports, " plaintiff "Presents-As-Female." (Id.)

Plaintiff seeks "Sex Reassignment Surgery ("SRS"), at state expense." (Compl. at 7.) According to the guidelines set by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Inc. ("WPATH"), a transgender person must live as a female under a doctor's care for 2 to 5 years to qualify for SRS. Plaintiff has been living as a female for 13 years, far exceeding the guidelines. Further, in November 2012, plaintiff's psychotherapist of over two years, Dr. William Reese, Ph.D/MSCP, recommended SRS as a "medical necessity" in plaintiff's case. (Compl. at 14.) Plaintiff asserts that SRS would finish what the CDCR and its doctors have already started and would allow her to reduce her hormone therapies and medications to safer doses. Plaintiff has used the CDCR inmate appeals process to request SRS, but has been denied.

In her "Legal Claims" section of the complaint, plaintiff alleges deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment as well as violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. (Compl. at 19-20.) Plaintiff names as defendants CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard, CDCR Medical Receiver Clark Kelso, CTF Warden M.E. Spearman, CTF Chief Medical Executive A. Adams, and CDCR Chief of Appeals L.D. Zamora. Plaintiff states generically that "each defendant has the power and authority to deny and obstruct medically necessary' treatments and procedures, and therefore, they, logically, have the power and authority to approve, order, and schedule surgeries." (Compl. at 6.) Plaintiff adds insufficient facts, however, linking the individual defendants to her allegations of wrongdoing.

Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A determination of "deliberate indifference" involves an examination of two elements: the seriousness of the prisoner's medical need and the nature of the defendant's response to that need. McGuckin v. Smith , 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller , 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). A prison official acts with deliberate indifference if he knows that a prisoner ...


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