University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Kosilek v. Nelson PC-MA-0039
Docket / Court 1:92-cv-12820 ( D. Mass. )
Additional Docket(s) 01-1185  [ 01-1185 ]  Federal Court of Appeals
1:00-cv-12455-MLW  [ 00-12455 ]  District of MA (U.S.)
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On November 11, 1992, a transgender inmate at the Bristol County Jail, serving a life sentence, filed a pro se lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against the Sheriff of the Bristol County and others under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The plaintiff asked the court for both an ... read more >
On November 11, 1992, a transgender inmate at the Bristol County Jail, serving a life sentence, filed a pro se lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against the Sheriff of the Bristol County and others under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The plaintiff asked the court for both an injunction ordering that she be provided with a sex reassignment surgery and damages, alleging that she was provided inadequate medical care for her serious medical need in violation of her constitutional rights. The medical need in question was severe Gender Dysphoria (GD), causing mental anguish to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff was later transferred to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections at Norfolk, MA. She filed a motion to amend her complaint to seek the same relief from DOC on February 8, 1993, which was granted on June 7, 1994. The case then proceeded for a long time on pre-trial discovery and motion practices.

On February 23, 1999, the plaintiff filed a motion to further amend to include the Commissioner of the DOC as a defendant, which was granted on March 4, 1999.

On September 12, 2000, the Court (Judge Mark Wolf) issued an order dismissing claims of damages against the Commissioner in his individual capacity, based on the doctrine of qualified immunity. The Court also issued a summary judgment for the Sheriff, as one of the defendants in the present case, dismissing all claims against him both in individual and official capacity. The Court cited qualified immunity of the Sheriff and lack of evidence to make out a claim of constitutional violation against him. Kosilek v. Nelson, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13355 (D. Mass. 2000). On October 4, 2000, the plaintiff filed an appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals against the summary judgment.

On February 27, 2001, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order, retaining jurisdiction over the case, but remanding it to the District Court to give statement of reasons for its order on September 12, 2000.

On September 14, 2001, the Court (Judge Mark Wolf) issued an order denying the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The non-jury trial finally commenced on February 4, 2002.

At trial, counsel for the plaintiff represented that she was seeking an injunction requiring that she be provided with treatment in prison for GD consistent with the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care. More specifically, the plaintiff requested an order that the defendant retain a doctor who specializes in treating GD to evaluate the plaintiff, authorize that doctor to prescribe any treatment deemed appropriate, and provide the treatment prescribed by that doctor. That treatment could require hormone treatment therapy and sex reassignment surgery.

On March 22, 2002, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a per curiam order affirming the summary judgment of the District Court (Judge Mark Wolf) on September 12, 2000 for the reasons stated in that judgment. Kosilek v. Nelson, 29 Fed. Appx. 621 (1st Cir. Mass. 2002).

Following the trial, the Court (Judge Mark Wolf) issued its judgment for the defendant on August 28, 2002. The Court did not find any violations of the Eighth Amendment by the Commissioner of the DOC. The Court found that the plaintiff's severe GD constitutes a serious medical need, for which she has not received adequate medical treatment. However, the Court found that the defendant was not deliberately indifferent to the substantial risk of serious harm to the plaintiff, as he did not appreciate the substantial risk posed to the plaintiff due to lack of medical qualifications and failing to make the inference necessary from the facts of the case, and also had legitimate security concerns, as well as concerns about political controversy. The Court did not issue an injunction or otherwise order the DOC to do something, but it expressed its expectations that the Commissioner would be put on notice of the plaintiff's serious medical need and provide adequate medical care for it. Kosilek v. Maloney, 221 F. Supp. 2d 156 (D. Mass. 2002).

The plaintiff filed her motion for attorney's fees on October 30, 2002, which was denied by the Court (Judge Mark Wolf) on September 11, 2003. This effectively ended the present case.

However, with the present case still ongoing, the plaintiff filed another pro se lawsuit against the Massachusetts Department of Corrections and its medical officers on December 12, 2000. The case is included in the database as Kosilek v. Spencer, PC-MA-0038. The allegations in that case were substantially similar to the present one, where the plaintiff argues that the DOC violated her constitutional rights by not providing her adequate medical care for her serious medical need. The present case's outcome bears substantial influence on the proceedings of the second case. The PC-MA-0038 case is still ongoing.

Zhandos Kuderin - 04/03/2014

compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)
Gender identity
Personal injury
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, general
Self-injurious behaviors
Suicide prevention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Massachusetts Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description prevailing party in another lawsuit
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Unknown
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 11/11/1992
Case Closing Year 2002
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PC-MA-0038 : Kosilek v. Spencer (D. Mass.)
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
D. Mass.
PC-MA-0039-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Mass.
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 189] (2000 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 13355)
PC-MA-0039-0004.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Source: LexisNexis
U.S. Court of Appeals
Opinion (29 Fed.Appx. 621)
PC-MA-0039-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: LexisNexis
D. Mass.
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 307] (221 F.Supp.2d 156)
PC-MA-0039-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
D. Mass.
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 321]
PC-MA-0039-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Lipez, Kermit Victor (First Circuit) show/hide docs
Lynch, Sandra Lea (First Circuit) show/hide docs
Selya, Bruce Marshall (FISCR, D.R.I., First Circuit) show/hide docs
Wolf, Mark Lawrence (D. Mass.) show/hide docs
PC-MA-0039-0001 | PC-MA-0039-0002 | PC-MA-0039-0004 | PC-MA-0039-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Chiasson-Aronoff, Jen Chase (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Cohen, Frances S. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Kosilek, Michelle (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Pyle, Jeffrey Jackson (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Beauregard, Philip N. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Franco, Michael (Massachusetts) show/hide docs

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -