In 2013, a Miami prison doctor reassigned Ms. Fior Pichardo de Veloz, a Dominican activist and grandmother, from a women’s jail to a men’s jail, solely because she indicated she was undergoing hormone replacement therapy as treatment for menopause. The doctor did not conduct a physical exam, but assumed she was transgender, although she had already been subject to a strip search that confirmed she was a woman. As a result, Mrs. Pichardo was sent to a men’s jail, where she was sexually harassed and tormented, fearing for her life and safety. She later filed a lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the doctor and other members of jail staff were deliberately indifference to her life and safety, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the doctor and a nurse were not entitled to qualified immunity fort her claims, that the facts alleged in the complaint made out a claim for deliberate indifference, and that the unconstitutionality of their actions would have been obvious to any reasonable medical provider. The doctor petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari review.
Public Citizen served as co-counsel for Ms. Pichardo at the Supreme Court stage. The brief in opposition to the petition argued that the Eleventh Circuit’s conclusion was a faithful application of the “obvious clarity” doctrine and that existing precedent was sufficient to put the doctor on notice. The Court denied the petition.