Haverkamp v. Linthicum; Haverkamp v. Johnson

An inmate incarcerated within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison system brought suit alleging that she has been denied medical care in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Under Texas law, health policy for the Texas prison system is set by the Correctional Managed Health Care Committee (Committee), which is also tasked with advising, assisting, and providing expertise to the TDCJ in administering care to inmates, as well as resolving disputes when treating physicians who contract with the prison system recommend treatment that the TDCJ disagrees with.

In 2014, Haverkamp was prescribed a course of hormone therapy and a referral for sex-reassignment surgery by her treating physician to treat her gender dysphoria. But as the date of her evaluation for surgery approached, her physician was told that the TDCJ would not pay for the procedure. She sued members of the Committee, alleging that they unconstitutionally denied her treatment that is provided to similarly situated women. Among other relief, she sought an injunction pursuant to Ex parte Young to prevent the defendants from continuing to deny her the prescribed course of treatment.

The Ex parte Young exception to state sovereign immunity authorizes federal courts to adjudicate cases where the complaint alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and seeks relief properly characterized as prospective. In this case, the defendants propose to restrict the scope of injunctive relief available to plaintiffs under Ex parte Young to what they refer to as “negative” injunctions. That is, they argue that the Ex parte Young exception applies only when a plaintiff seeks a federal court order to stop state officials from taking official action, not when the plaintiff seeks an order to require the state official to act. After the district court denied their motion to dismiss the case, the defendants pressed this argument on appeal.

In an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff, Public Citizen explained that the defendants’ position is inconsistent with scores of decisions of the Supreme Court and other federal courts granting “affirmative” injunctive relief to protect a wide range of federal constitutional and statutory rights, including rights under the First Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and federal civil rights statutes. The court ruled in favor of the defendants on the ground that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to plausibly allege that the defendants were sufficiently connected to enforcing the challenged policies or decisions. Having ruled on that basis, the court found it unnecessary to address the issue addressed in our brief.