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Cases & Deals

August 9, 2021

K&S Secures Injunctive Relief for First-Ever Class Action of Transgender Prisoners

Trial lawyers from King & Spalding, The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, and Kirkland & Ellis joined forces to secure an unprecedented trial victory on August 5, 2021 on behalf of their clients, a certified class of all transgender individuals incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). Monroe v. Jeffreys, No. 18-cv-156 (S.D. Ill.).

In 2018, Plaintiffs brought claims under § 1983 against IDOC officials named in their official capacity for denial of adequate treatment of their serious medical condition (gender dysphoria) in contravention of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that IDOC routinely and arbitrarily delays or denies necessary medical care for gender dysphoria, including hormone therapy, social transition (e.g., providing gender-affirming clothing and grooming items, placement in gender affirming-facilities, and use of gender-affirming pronouns), and evaluation for gender-affirming surgery.

On December 19, 2019, Plaintiffs’ attorneys achieved an important victory when Chief Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois granted their motion for a preliminary injunction, ordering nearly all the relief Plaintiffs requested. Following the preliminary injunction, the Court certified Plaintiffs’ class and denied Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. 

From August 2-5, 2021, Plaintiffs presented evidence to the Court of deficiencies in IDOC’s compliance with the preliminary injunction order, as well as significant flaws in revised IDOC policies and administrative directives finalized during the four months leading up to trial that purported to cure Defendants’ constitutional violations. Class members and experts testified to the horrific treatment suffered by the class, including IDOC’s refusal to provide medically necessary hormone therapy and surgery, gender-affirming placement and clothing items, lack of private showers, and cross-gender strip searches. Defendants largely relied upon the COVID-19 pandemic to excuse their failures to provide adequate care to the class and pointed to new policies and future plans to provide adequate care.

At the close of the evidence, on August 5, 2021, the Court issued a rare ruling from the bench, permanently enjoining IDOC from continuing to delay or deny Plaintiffs medically necessary care to treat their serious medical condition, gender dysphoria.  Despite having additional evidence to review, the Court found that immediate relief was warranted because “issues that have to come to light in the past four days . . . are so serious, such serious violations of the Eighth Amendment, that they must be immediately addressed.” 

This win is significant because it is the culmination of a three-year battle, brought on behalf of over 100 plaintiffs, that affects the policies and practices of every state prison in Illinois. The Court’s relief is specific and immediate, providing direct relief to the entire class. The case likely will become a playbook for similar litigation in other states.

The King & Spalding team included Brent Ray, Abby Parsons, Lena Colin, May Odiakosa, Jennifer Miller, and Jess Ruiz.

A link to the ACLU’s press release is here

A link to the Court’s Order is here.