Idaho fought an inmate's court-ordered sex reassignment surgery. Now her attorneys want $2.8M in fees.
The lawyers for Adree Edmo, the first incarcerated person to receive federally court-ordered gender confirmation surgery, are asking Idaho and its health insurance provider Corizon to pay back $2.82 million in attorneys fees.
More than two years ago, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the state of Idaho had to provide Edmo with sex reassignment surgery, writing “responsible prison officials were deliberately indifferent to Edmo’s gender dysphoria, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”
The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately declined to hear the case last year. That decision could affect how gender dysphoria in inmates is handled around the West and the nation.
Since those rulings, Edmo has gotten the surgery, was moved to a women’s prison and was released in July. Now, her attorneys say they need to be compensated. They noted in a court filing today that they had agreed to represent Edmo on a “contingency basis, meaning that they might never be compensated for either their legal work or expenses.”
“Securing competent counsel to represent Ms. Edmo was especially important given the unpopularity of her case ... and the legal landscape in Idaho," they wrote. "Idaho has no state laws that expressly protect transgender people from discrimination and was the first state to try to ban transgender children from playing sports.”
They argue the $2.82 million amounts to reasonable attorneys fees and expenses, given the length and complications of the trial.
“As such, a fee award is necessary to compensate Plaintiff for the cost of vindicating her civil rights and to hold Defendants accountable for violating federal law,” the attorneys wrote.
Amy Whelan is an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and was one of seven lawyers representing Edmo who filed for this reimbursement. She argued that while it seems like a lot of money, it's below market prices for this amount of work and follows rates set under the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
"They appealed to the 9th Circuit. And then when they lost there, they sought review by the entire 9th circuit panel, which we also had to oppose. And then when they lost there, they asked the Supreme Court to review the case," she said.
Beyond that, she said there also were several motions, legal fights and fees.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights had two attorneys listed in this filing, and is asking for $583,017 for its more than 1,250 hours of work ( about $465 per hour).
Whelan said opposition to their request is due to be filed in the next week, and there will be another brief in December before the judge makes a decision.
The Idaho Department of Correction and Corizon, the state’s private healthcare provider, have fought against the lawsuit for years. As has Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R), who called the District Court’s ruling in August “extremely disappointing.” Little could not be reached for comment at time of publishing.
Edmo was convicted of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy when she was 22.
This story will be updated. For more information on this case, listen to our podcast Locked.
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