M. C. v. Amrhein, 012615 FED4, 13-2178

Docket Nº:13-2178, 13-2182, 13-2183
Opinion Judge:DIAZ, Circuit Judge
Party Name:M. C., a minor by and through his parents Pamela Crawford and John Mark Crawford, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. DR. JAMES AMRHEIN, Defendant-Appellant, and DR. IAN AARONSON; DR. YAW APPIAGYEI-DANKAH; KIM AYDLETTE; MEREDITH WILLIAMS; CANDICE DAVIS, a/k/a Candi Davis; MARY SEARCY; DOE 1, Unknown South Carolina Department of Social Services Employee; DOE 2
Attorney:Andrew Lindemann, DAVIDSON & LINDEMANN, P.A., Columbia, South Carolina; James Ben Alexander, HAYNSWORTH SINKLER BOYD, P.A., Greenville, South Carolina; Elloree Ann Ganes, HOOD LAW FIRM, LLC, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellants. Kristi Lee Graunke, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER, Atlanta, Geor...
Judge Panel:Before MOTZ and DIAZ, Circuit Judges, and DAVIS, Senior Circuit Judge.
Case Date:January 26, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

M. C., a minor by and through his parents Pamela Crawford and John Mark Crawford, Plaintiff - Appellee,

v.

DR. JAMES AMRHEIN, Defendant-Appellant,

and

DR. IAN AARONSON; DR. YAW APPIAGYEI-DANKAH; KIM AYDLETTE; MEREDITH WILLIAMS; CANDICE DAVIS, a/k/a Candi Davis; MARY SEARCY; DOE 1, Unknown South Carolina Department of Social Services Employee; DOE 2, Unknown South Carolina Department of Social Services Employee; DOE 3, Unknown South Carolina Department of Social Services Employee, Defendants.

AIS-DSD SUPPORT GROUP; THE PROGRAM FOR THE STUDY OF REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE-INFORMATION SOCIETY PROJECT AT THE YALE LAW SCHOOL AND CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLARS, Amici Supporting Appellee.

M. C., a minor by and through his parents Pamela Crawford and John Mark Crawford, Plaintiff - Appellee,

v.

KIM AYDLETTE; MEREDITH WILLIAMS; CANDICE DAVIS, a/k/a Candi Davis; MARY SEARCY, Defendants-Appellants,

and

DR. JAMES AMRHEIN; DR. IAN AARONSON; DR. YAW APPIAGYEI-DANKAH; DOE 1, Unknown South Carolina Department of Social Services Employee; DOE 2, Unknown South Carolina Department of Social Services Employee; DOE 3, Unknown South Carolina Department of Social Services Employee, Defendants.

AIS-DSD SUPPORT GROUP; THE PROGRAM FOR THE STUDY OF REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE-INFORMATION SOCIETY PROJECT AT THE YALE LAW SCHOOL AND CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLARS, Amici Supporting Appellee.

M. C., a minor by and through his parents Pamela Crawford and John Mark Crawford, Plaintiff - Appellee,

v.

DR. IAN AARONSON; DR. YAW APPIAGYEI-DANKAH, Defendants-Appellants,

and

DR. JAMES AMRHEIN; KIM AYDLETTE; MEREDITH WILLIAMS; CANDICE DAVIS, a/k/a Candi Davis; MARY SEARCY; DOE 1, Unknown South Carolina Department of Social Services Employee; DOE 2, Unknown South Carolina Department of Social Services Employee; DOE 3, Unknown South Carolina Department of Social Services Employee, Defendants.

AIS-DSD SUPPORT GROUP; THE PROGRAM FOR THE STUDY OF REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE-INFORMATION SOCIETY PROJECT AT THE YALE LAW SCHOOL AND CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLARS, Amici Supporting Appellee.

Nos. 13-2178, 13-2182, 13-2183

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

January 26, 2015

UNPUBLISHED

Argued: September 17, 2014

Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Charleston. David C. Norton, District Judge. (2:13-cv-01303-DCN)

ARGUED:

Andrew Lindemann, DAVIDSON & LINDEMANN, P.A., Columbia, South Carolina; James Ben Alexander, HAYNSWORTH SINKLER BOYD, P.A., Greenville, South Carolina; Elloree Ann Ganes, HOOD LAW FIRM, LLC, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellants.

Kristi Lee Graunke, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER, Atlanta, Georgia, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Kenneth N. Shaw, HAYNSWORTH SINKLER BOYD, P.A., Greenville, South Carolina, for Appellant Dr. James Amrhein.

Robert H. Hood, Barbara Wynne Showers, Deborah Harrison Sheffield, HOOD LAW FIRM, LLC, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellants Dr. Ian Aaronson and Dr. Yaw Appiagyei-Dankah.

William H. Davidson, II, DAVIDSON & LINDEMANN, P.A., Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellants Kim Aydlette, Meredith Williams, Candice Davis, and Mary Searcy.

Kenneth M. Suggs, JANET, JENNER AND SUGGS, LLC, Columbia, South Carolina; Alesdair H. Ittelson, David Dinielli, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER, Montgomery, Alabama; Anne Tamar-Mattis, ADVOCATES FOR INFORMED CHOICE, Cotati, California; John Lovi, William Ellerbe, STEPTOE AND JOHNSON LLP, New York, New York, for Appellee.

Suzanne B. Goldberg, Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL, New York, New York, for Amicus AIS-DSD Support Group.

Priscilla J. Smith, LAW OFFICE OF PRISCILLA J. SMITH, Brooklyn, New York, for Amicus The Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice-Information Society Project at The Yale Law School and Constitutional Scholars.

Before MOTZ and DIAZ, Circuit Judges, and DAVIS, Senior Circuit Judge.

Reversed and remanded with instructions by unpublished opinion. Judge Diaz wrote the opinion, in which Judge Motz and Senior Judge Davis joined.

Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.

DIAZ, Circuit Judge

In April 2006, a doctor performed sex assignment surgery on sixteen-month-old M.C., who was in the legal custody of the South Carolina Department of Social Services and had been diagnosed at birth with an intersex condition. Four months after the surgery, Pamela and Mark Crawford took custody of M.C. before adopting him in December 2006. The Crawfords filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on M.C.'s behalf, against the officials and doctors who played a part in the decision to have M.C. undergo the surgery. The district court denied the officials' and doctors' motions to dismiss based on qualified immunity. Because we find that no then-extant precedent gave fair warning to those involved in the decision regarding M.C.'s surgery that they were violating his clearly established constitutional rights, we reverse.

I.

In our de novo review of a denial of a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity, we take "as true the facts as alleged in the complaint, and view those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Jenkins v. Medford, 119 F.3d 1156, 1159 (4th Cir. 1997) (en banc) (footnote omitted). We draw the following facts from M.C.'s complaint.

M.C. was born with ovotesticular difference/disorder of sex development (DSD). Ovotesticular DSD is an intersex condition where the individual has ovarian and testicular tissue. Hospital records first identified M.C. as male, but treating physicians later sometimes referred to M.C. as female. Through tests, examinations, and surgery, doctors determined that M.C. had "extremely elevated" testosterone levels and that his genitalia consisted of a testicle, an ovotestis with ovarian and testicular tissue, a phallus, scrotalized labia, a short vagina, and no uterus. J.A. 21-22.

In February 2005, M.C. was placed in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Social Services ("SCDSS") until December 2006, when the Crawfords adopted him. Before the adoption, SCDSS had was authorized to make medical decisions for M.C.

After many examinations, tests, two surgeries, and numerous consultations among SCDSS officials and doctors over the course of a year, Drs. James Amrhein, Yaw Appiagyei-Dankah, and Ian Aaronson recommended that M.C. have sex assignment surgery. According to M.C, the doctors recommended the "irreversible, invasive, and painful" surgery despite "no compelling biological reason to raise M.C. as either male or female." J.A. 12, 23. The doctors also knew that they could "assign M.C. a gender of rearing and postpone surgery" and that the surgery carried risks of "complete loss of sexual function, scarring, loss of male fertility, gender misassignment, and lifetime psychological distress." J.A. 24-25. In short, M.C. alleges that the surgery was medically unnecessary. J.A. 25.

In April 2006, with consent from SCDSS, 1 Dr. Aaronson performed a feminizing genitoplasty on sixteen-month-old M.C. This surgery involved removing most of M.C.'s phallus, his testicle, and the testicular tissue in his ovotestis.

After adopting M.C., the Crawfords originally raised him as a girl, consistent with the sex assignment surgery. But as M.C. grew older, it became clear that he identified as male, and he is now living as a boy.

M.C., by and through the Crawfords, filed a § 1983 lawsuit against the three doctors and seven SCDSS officials who played a part in the decision to perform the sex assignment surgery. He alleged Fourteenth Amendment substantive and procedural due process violations. The district court denied the defendants' motions to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds. The court concluded that M.C. had pleaded...

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