Fields v. Smith
Lambda Legal and the ACLU have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three transgender women incarcerated in Wisconsin. The case challenges a Wisconsin law that bars access to hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery for prison inmates and others in state custody. Prison doctors used to be allowed to determine proper treatment for transgender inmates, but this new law strips them of that power. We received a court order for our clients to continue receiving treatment as the case moves forward.
It is a violation of the federal Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection as well as the guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment to bar transgender inmates from access to individualized medical care. Wisconsin is the only state in the country that has passed a law barring its Department of Corrections from providing medically necessary care to transgender inmates.
Lambda Legal's Impact
Reversing Wisconsin’s law will ensure that transgender inmates receive necessary medical care and help to dispel myths about transgender health needs. In this and other cases, Lambda Legal is fighting to ensure that transgender people have access to appropriate health care and are safe from discrimination.
- January 2006 Lambda Legal files federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and secures preliminary injunction maintaining our clients’ pre-existing hormone treatment, pending resolution of the case.
- October 2007 Lambda Legal conducts a four-day trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, arguing that the Wisconsin law at issue violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by denying medically necessary treatments to some transgender prisoners.
- April 2010 The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin strikes down the law.
- February 2011 Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Wisconsin present oral argument before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. You can listen to the oral argument here.
- August 2011 Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upholds transgender people's right to access medical treatment in prison.
- March 2012 Victory! The U.S. Supreme Court turns down the state of Wisconsin's appeal.