US: Trans prisoner may be given legal costs as well as surgery

Joseph McCormick September 17, 2012
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The legal costs of a trans woman incarcerated in a male prison, who has been allowed to have gender reassignment surgery whilst still serving her sentence, may also be eligible to have her legal costs covered, a court has ruled.

Judge Mark Wolf, who also ruled that Michelle Kosilek be granted the surgery, in a legal first, said that she should also have her legal fees paid by the state. Her fees haven’t been calculated, but have been likened to those of a similar, $500,000 case.

He said: “Kosilek has prevailed on his claim that the defendant has violated his Eighth Amendment rights and is continuing to do so. Therefore, he is eligible to be awarded his reasonable attorney’s fees and costs,” reported the Associated Press.

The amount she is eligible for has not been confirmed, but Judge Wolf said that they were “likely to be large,” because of the length of time they cover.

Judge Wolf, of Boston, Massachusetts ruled earlier this month that Michelle Kosilek  would be given gender reassignment surgery in prison, as the “only adequate treatment” of her gender dysphoria. This was believed to be the first ruling of its kind.

The prisoner identifies herself as female but was incarcerated in an male-only prison. She was previously known as Robert, was married to Cheryl Kosilek, and was convicted of murdering her in 1990.

She received a life sentence, with no parole, had attempted to take her own life, and to self-castrate since being locked up in the all male prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts.

Almost 50 state lawmakers in Massachusetts subsequently began the process of attempting to reverse the decision, led by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, who called the ruling an “absurd decision.”

Attorneys acting on behalf of Ms Kosilek have until October 4 to file for their fees, but have offered to waive them, excluding out-of-pocket expenses, on the condition that the Department of Correction does not appeal against Judge Wolf’s ruling.

“The firms have offered to waive their fees in exchange for Miss Kosilek getting court-ordered relief without further appeal,” said Frances Cohen, attorney.

The Department of Correction have not commented to say whether or not they will appeal Judge Wolf’s original ruling. The department can do so until October 9.

Complaints from the DoC have claimed that after the surgery, Ms Kosilek could be a target for sexual assaults, citing security risks. Judge Wolf, however, said these claims were: “either pretextual or can be dealt with.”

More: Americas, department of correction, drances cohen, frances cohen, judge mark wolf, legal fees, michelle kosilek, trans discrimination, US

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