Adree Edmo jail portrait

Adree Edmo

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear an appeal from the state of Idaho in the case of Adree Edmo, an Idaho prisoner who sought gender confirmation surgery while incarcerated due to gender dysphoria so severe that she twice attempted to castrate herself.

Edmo, 32, of Bannock County, had the surgery in July, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block it, but the state continued to press an appeal to the nation’s highest court on the merits of the case. On Tuesday, the high court formally denied the state’s petition for a writ of certiorari, the formal petition for the court to take up a case on appeal.

As the Idaho Press reported in August, the surgery’s roughly $75,000 cost was covered under the state Department of Correction’s contract with prison health care provider Corizon Health, so it didn’t actually cost the state more; but the legal costs did.

As of Tuesday, the state Department of Administration reported that the legal fees and associated costs of the case to the state had reached $456,738.80.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, dissented in Tuesday’s decision, saying that they instead wanted to rule the case as moot and direct that the 9th Circuit decision in the case be vacated. No other justices joined them in that position, however.

That means the U.S. District Court’s decision, upheld by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, stands; it held that Idaho was violating the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by refusing to provide the surgery. The 8th Amendment forbids “cruel and unusual punishments.” The federal courts held that the 8th Amendment doesn’t allow prisons to treat transgender inmates differently with regard to which medical conditions warrant treatment.

Edmo was transferred from an Idaho men’s prison to the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center on July 31. She was the second transgender prison inmate in American history to receive gender confirmation surgery while incarcerated.

Lori Rifkin, one of Edmo’s attorneys, told the Idaho Press in August that the precedent upheld by the 9th Circuit is “that prison administrators can’t treat medical conditions related to gender dysphoria or transgender people any differently than they treat any under medical conditions under the 8th Amendment. … They don’t get to pick and choose which medical conditions to treat.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.