crimesider

Appeals court delays transgender California inmate's surgery

An undated photo shows transgender inmate Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, who has been seeking gender reassignment surgery while serving time in a California prison for second-degree murder.

CBS News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A federal appeals court delayed sex reassignment surgery for a transgender prison inmate in California on Thursday, hours after a state panel recommended that she be paroled.

The pair of decisions makes it less likely that convicted killer Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, who has lived as a woman since the 1990s, will receive the surgery before she is released from prison.

Norsworthy, 51, had been scheduled for the surgery on July 1, but the appellate court order delays the operation while it considers her case -- a process that could take months.

In April, a U.S. district judge ordered California's corrections department to provide the surgery for Norsbury, the first time such an operation has been for an inmate in the state.

Meanwhile, the state Board of Parole Hearings has 120 days to review the commissioners' recommendation that she be freed. If it is upheld, Gov. Jerry Brown will have another 30 days to intervene.

The surgery was delayed by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as part of an appeal by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The panel said the case raised serious legal questions.

"Also weighing in favor of a stay here is the likelihood that, absent a stay, this litigation would become moot before receiving full appellate consideration," the appeals panel said.

It set a hearing on Norsworthy's case in August.

The stay came the same day that two parole commissioners decided that Norsworthy is no longer dangerous and should be freed after serving 28 years in prison for a second-degree murder conviction in Orange County.

Attorneys for a Massachusetts transgender inmate convicted of murder asked the U.S. Supreme Court in March to overturn a ruling denying her request for sex reassignment surgery.

A federal judge in 2012 ordered the Massachusetts Department of Correction to grant the surgery to Michelle Kosilek. The state appealed, and the ruling was overturned in December by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.