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Massachusetts

Prisoner awarded gender reassignment surgery, attorneys seek legal expenses

Friday, October 5, 2012
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NORFOLK, Mass. — Convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek — who was granted taxpayer-funded gender-reassignment surgery ordered by a federal judge — is demanding $698 in reimbursement for legal expenses for arguing her case from behind bars, and her attorneys are seeking fees of around $800,000, according to documents filed this week in U. S. District Court.

Kosilek, who has been diagnosed with gender-identity disorder, won the right to gender reassignment surgery after U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf said in a 126-page ruling issued last month, that the treatment for Kosilek had been prescribed by Department of Correction doctors, and that the only justifications for denying the treatment were based on public opinion.

Michelle Kosilek

The state is appealing a Wolf’s ruling to allow Kosilek to undergo the gender reassignment surgery.

Kosilek, who first sued the Massachusetts Department of Corrections 12 years ago, is asking that the court reimburse her legal expenses:

“I incurred the following out-of-pocket expenses,” Kosilek writes in a hand-written note that was included in today’s filing. Those expenses, she writes, include: $496.86 for stamps; $156.18 for bulk postage; $26.10 for envelopes; $7.80 for copies; $11.75 for filing fees.

“Having prevailed, I am asking the court to order the defendant to reimburse me for my expenses. Signed under pain and penalty of perjury, Michelle Lynne Kosilek,” the filing reads with her signature.

The total amount sought is $698.69.

In the same filing, Kosilek’s attorney, Frances S. Cohen, cites the Prison Litigation Reform Act in demanding $644,573 in attorneys’ fees and costs of $161,873 — for a total of $806,446.

Cohen justified her expenses and fees, writing that she had fought for a client who had an “unpopular diagnosis.”

“Prosecuting this case was a huge undertaking by many measures,” Cohen wrote. “Plaintiff’s counsel has borne the burden of keeping an often frantic and distraught client informed.”

Cohen had previously offered to waive her firm’s fees, excluding out-of-pocket expenses, on the condition that the Department of Correction does not appeal against Judge Wolf’s ruling. In a legal brief filed last Friday, attorney’s for the Department of Corrections notified the court of their intention to appeal the decision.

Kosilek, who is serving a life sentence, has been housed in an all-male correctional facility in Norfolk, Mass., after being imprisoned for the 1990 murder of her spouse Cheryl Kosilek. Wolf said it would be up to prison officials to decide how and where to house Kosilek following the surgery.

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