Transgender inmate asks for $806K in legal costs


By DENISE LAVOIE, AP Legal Affairs Writer


BOSTON (AP) — Lawyers for a convicted murderer who won a court ruling ordering Massachusetts prison officials to provide a state-funded sex change asked the state on Thursday to pay more than $806,000 in legal costs.

Michelle Kosilek’s lawyers are seeking $644,573 in attorneys’ fees and $161,873 spent on out-of-pocket costs, including fees paid to experts.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled last month that sex-reassignment surgery is the “only adequate treatment” for Kosilek’s gender-identity disorder. The ruling marked the first time a judge has ordered prison officials to provide sex-reassignment surgery to an inmate.

Wolf also found that Kosilek is entitled to legal fees.

Kosilek’s lawyers said they offered to forego attorneys’ fees if the state would agree to provide Kosilek with the surgery and not appeal Wolf’s ruling. But they said the Department of Correction announced its appeal before the two sides were schedule to meet to talk about attorneys’ fees.

Kosilek was named Robert when married to Cheryl Kosilek and convicted of murdering her in 1990.

Kosilek first sued the Department of Correction in 2000. Two years later, Wolf ruled that Kosilek was entitled to treatment for gender-identity disorder but stopped short of ordering surgery. Kosilek sued again in 2005, arguing that the surgery was a medical necessity.

In his Sept. 4 ruling, Wolf found that surgery is the only adequate treatment for Kosilek’s disorder and that prison officials violated her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Department of Correction has repeatedly cited security risks, arguing that allowing Kosilek to have the surgery could make her a target for sexual assaults by other inmates. Wolf found that the security concerns cited by prison officials were a “pretext to mask the real reason” for denying the surgery, which the judge said was “a fear of controversy, criticism, ridicule and scorn.”

In court documents filed Thursday, Kosilek’s lawyers said the DOC has “left no avenue unexplored in its efforts to avoid taking unpopular action.”

“Kosilek now seeks an award for the fees and costs directly and reasonably incurred in proving an actual violation of (Kosilek’s) rights,” attorneys Frances Cohen, Joseph Sulman and Christina Chan wrote.

Diane Wiffin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Correction, declined to comment, citing the pending appeal.

A group of more than 50 state lawmakers urged the Department of Correction to appeal the ruling, arguing that Kosilek is not entitled to the taxpayer-funded surgery.





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