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Norsworthy v. Beard

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 15, 2014

JEFFREY BEARD, et al., Defendants.


JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

On January 23, 2014, plaintiff, a California prisoner then incarcerated at the Correctional Training Facility ("CTF") and proceeding pro se, filed the above-titled civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. §1983.[1] She[2] seeks an injunction requiring the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") to permit her a legal name change. Her complaint is now before the Court for review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.


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. Plaintiff's Allegations

The following allegations are taken from the complaint. Plaintiff began serving a life sentence within the CDCR in 1987. In 1999, plaintiff was referred to the Department of Mental Health within the California Medical Facility. In January 2000, 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, plaintiff started a feminizing endocrine therapy and psychotherapy. She has remained at pre-operation dosages and intensity over the last 14 years. She has also undergone castration and "has developed and evolved into an extremely feminized, female, and womanly person in form and stature." (Compl. at 8.[3]) According to "several doctors, " plaintiff "Presents-as-Female." (Id.)

Plaintiff has filed a separate action currently before this Court, seeking Sex Reassignment Surgery ("SRS"). (See Norsworthy v. Beard, Case No. C 14-00695 JST (PR). The Court recently appointed counsel in C 14-00695 JST (PR) and has issued a schedule for the filing of an amended complaint in that action.

In this action, plaintiff "is not seeking an order for SRS, but a legal name change prior to SRS." (Compl. at 9.) Plaintiff asserts that, according to the guidelines set by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Inc. ("WPATH"), name changes "are a very necessary component of the pre-surgical process; delay of document/name changes can have a deleterious impact on a patient's mental health and social integration." (Id.)

Plaintiff asserts that, pursuant to CDCR policy, a prisoner "can only change their name with the consent of a Warden, Parole Officer or the Secretary of the CDCR." (Compl. at 6.) "The request should be denied when there is reason to believe the name change request is for criminal/nefarious motives to conceal connection to past criminal history." (Id. (citing Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3294.5)) Plaintiff asserts she is not seeking a name change for criminal reasons. "Plaintiff is seeking a name change based on a state documented medical condition that defines her as a woman/biological female." (Compl. at 7.)

Plaintiff states she requested a legal name change "using proper CDCR procedure, and quoting CDCR policy." (Compl. at 6.) She "was denied at each level of administrative review." (Id.) Plaintiff names as defendants CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard, CTF Warden M.E. Spearman, ...

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