Court refuses to reconsider transgender inmate case
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NSF) - A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected a transgender Florida prisoner’s request for a rehearing in a case about whether state corrections officials violated her constitutional rights when they did not allow her to dress and groom like a woman.
Thursday’s 7-4 decision — with acrimonious opinions issued by judges on each side — followed a ruling by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Department of Corrections “chose a meaningful course of treatment” to address Reiyn Keohane’s gender dysphoria.
Keohane’s attorneys then requested a rehearing by the full court, known as seeking an “en banc,” hearing.
The March 11 ruling by the three-judge panel overturned a decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker.
The Tallahassee-based judge had ordered the state to allow Keohane, who began hormone therapy before she started serving a 15-year sentence for attempted murder in 2014, to wear women’s undergarments and have access to grooming items available to female inmates.
Keohane sued the Department of Corrections and prison officials in 2016 and was allowed to have hormone treatments.
But prison officials refused to allow Keohane, who is incarcerated at the all-male Florida State Prison and has attempted suicide while in prison, to wear women’s undergarments, let her hair grow and groom as a woman.
In Thursday’s dissenting opinion, Judge Robin Rosenbaum argued that a full-court review of the case was warranted, in part, because the panel decision contradicted prior court rulings.
“We as a court must reckon with these potentially devastating consequences of our actions if we continue to allow opinions that flout the prior-precedent rule while claiming they comply with it to issue unchecked,” Rosenbaum wrote in a sharply worded dissent joined by Judges Charles Wilson, Beverly Martin and Jill Pryor.
But in a concurring opinion siding with the majority, Judge Kevin Newsom, who authored the March panel ruling, blasted the dissenting judges.
The panel “did its level best” to apply previous court rulings “and correctly decide the case before it,” he wrote Thursday.
“For all its rhetorical flourish, today’s dissent from denial simply doesn’t make a compelling argument that this case warranted en banc reconsideration,” he added.
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