Case: Doe v. Abbott

D-1-GN-22-000977 | Texas state trial court

Filed Date: March 1, 2022

Case Ongoing

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Case Summary

This is a case about transgender children in Texas. For regular updates, please refer to the ACLU resource; we will update this page with the Texas trial court docket when issues with that site resolve. On February 18, 2022, the Texas Attorney General issued an opinion which found that gender-confirmation treatment, including surgeries and hormone-replacement therapy, was child abuse as defined by the Texas Family Code. The Code defines "abuse" as mental, emotional, or physical injuries that ha…

This is a case about transgender children in Texas. For regular updates, please refer to the ACLU resource; we will update this page with the Texas trial court docket when issues with that site resolve. On February 18, 2022, the Texas Attorney General issued an opinion which found that gender-confirmation treatment, including surgeries and hormone-replacement therapy, was child abuse as defined by the Texas Family Code. The Code defines "abuse" as mental, emotional, or physical injuries that harm a "child's growth, development, or psychological functioning." On February 22, 2022, the Governor of Texas directed the state Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate parents who provide gender-confirmation care to their children as potential child abusers, referencing the Attorney General's February 18 opinion. The Governor also said that certain mandatory reporters, including medical providers and teachers, and the general public were under duties to report gender-confirmation care as child abuse.

In response to the governor's directive, the DFPS investigated multiple families of transgender children. One of those families are plaintiffs here –– the mother, who worked for DFPS, was placed on administrative leave in response to the letter because her transgender child received gender-affirming care. On March 1, 2022, the family, plus a licensed psychiatrist who works with transgender children and is a mandatory child abuse reporter, sued the Governor, the DFPS, and its Commissioner in the Travis County district court. Represented by the ACLU, its Texas affiliate, Lambda Legal, and private counsel, the plaintiffs alleged that the "directives were issued without proper authority, in violation of the Texas Administrative Procedures Act, the separation of powers requirements of the Texas Constitution, and the [state] constitutional rights of transgender youth and their parents." The plaintiffs sought an immediate and permanent injunction against enforcement of the law as well as declaratory relief. 

The next day, on March 2, 2022, the court granted the plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order, enjoining the law's enforcement against the family and the psychiatrist. The court found that the family and psychiatrist would face irreparable harm if the child abuse law were enforced against them. The court did not enjoin enforcement of the law against any other parties. The defendants appealed this TRO the next day. 

On March 9, 2022, the Texas Court of Appeals denied the State's appeal. The defendants had argued that the March 2 TRO implicitly denied their "plea to the jurisdiction," which is the Texas state court vehicle for a claim that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. If that were the case, the appellate court would have jurisdiction to vacate the TRO. But the appellate court found that the trial court's TRO grant was not an implicit denial of the State's subject matter jurisdiction claim –– the state had filed the claim in the trial court "minutes before" the trial court TRO hearing, and did not request a ruling on the plea. Since the TRO was not an implicit denial of the plea, the appellate court did not have jurisdiction to vacate it. 

Back in the district court, the parties litigated the application for a temporary injunction, which would apply to any enforcement of the child abuse law under the directive, not just the plaintiffs here. On March 11, 2022, the district court granted the temporary injunction after a hearing the same day. The court found the governor's directive was beyond the scope of his authority and unconstitutional because it "violate[d] separation of powers by impermissibly encroaching into the legislative domain." The court adopted its prior findings that the plaintiffs would be irreparably injured by enforcement of the law –– the mother of the transgender child who worked at DFPS had already been placed on leave, and anyone convicted of child abuse would be placed on a state registry. The court's order enjoined enforcement of the directive against anyone in the state until the issues in the case were resolved on the merits. The state immediately appealed the decision. As of March 14, 2022, that appeal is pending.

The case is ongoing; trial on the merits is set for July 11, 2022. 

Summary Authors

John Juenemann (3/13/2022)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Resources

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Texas

Case Type(s):

Child Welfare

Key Dates

Filing Date: March 1, 2022

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Transgender child and their parents Psychiatrist providing transgender care to children

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU National (all projects)

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Lambda Legal

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Commissioner, State

Governor, State

Department of Family and Protective Services, State

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Availably Documents:

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 2022 - None

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Issues

General:

Gay/lesbian/transgender

Discrimination-basis:

Gender identity