Transgender inmate who sued Idaho to get $2.5M in legal fees
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge has ordered Idaho and its prison medical care provider to pay more than $2.5 million in legal fees to a transgender inmate who sued after she was denied gender confirmation surgery.
The cost, however, will not come out of taxpayer dollars. Instead, it will be covered by Corizon Correctional Healthcare under a separate agreement with the state.
Adree Edmo sued the state and the Idaho Department of Correction’s health care provider, Corizon.in 2017, alleging that they were violating her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment by denying her gender confirmation surgery. Edmo identifies as female, but she had long been housed in the men’s prison while she served a 10 year sentence for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.
In her lawsuit, she asked a judge to order the state to allow her to change her name, provide her with access to gender-appropriate clothing, transfer her to a women’s correctional facility and provide her with gender confirmation surgery.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled in 2018 that the state must provide Edmo with the surgery and said that continuing to deny the treatment would place her at risk of irreparable harm. Edmo had shown that she had a serious medical need for the surgery because she had severe gender dysphoria — a condition that occurs when the incongruity between a person’s assigned gender and their gender identity is so severe that it impairs their ability to function.
The state appealed Winmill’s ruling,. It was two more years before Edmo received the gender confirmation surgery, becoming the second person in the U.S. to undergo the surgery while incarcerated. She was transferred to a women’s prison to serve the remainder of her sentence, and was released in 2021.
During the appeal process, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Edmo’s claims that Idaho Department of Correction employees and officials were “deliberately indifferent” to her medical needs. But the appellate court did find that a Corizon physician was deliberately indifferent in the case.
Edmo asked Winmill to award her more than $2.8 million in attorney’s fees and other court expenses. She was represented in the case by seven different attorneys, including Boise attorneys Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham, lawyers with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and representatives from several other law firms.
The judge lowered that figure to roughly $2.5 million after agreeing with the defendants that some of the charges were too high — including hourly rates for a few hearings that multiple attorneys attended.
Corizon and the Idaho Department of Correction agreed in December that Corizon pay the costs of any legal fees awarded to Edmo in the case, and in exchange the state wouldn’t ask Corizon to also cover the cost of the state’s attorneys.
Corizon’s contract with the state includes wording that says it must defend and “hold harmless” the state from any claims or costs incurred because of negligent or wrongful acts of Corizon employees.