Guest Opinion published September 11, 2018, Siskiyou Daily News

For those of you would-be lawyers, here is your bar exam question.  Picture, if you will, a hypothetical PETITON FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, submitted to the Siskiyou County Superior Court from a prisoner incarcerated at Pelican Bay State Prison.  As are probably 98% of such petitions, this one is a hand-written form submitted directly by an inmate, no lawyer involved.  The California Rules of Court require the Superior Court Judge to do one of three things within a certain limited period of time on every habeas corpus petition received.  The judge can grant it, deny it, or set it for a hearing.  If the judge denies the petition, the judge is required to state the reasons for the denial.  Our courts are inundated with such petitions on a daily basis.  Here is what this petitioner, who states his name only to be “Rover,” had to say:

“Dear Judge Davis.

“Since I have been here at Pelican Bay I have had a lot of spare time and decided to use it by becoming educated.  I have studied psychology and psychiatry and have learned that there is a mental disorder, called ‘Gender Dysphoria,’ that has been identified and accepted by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).  The disorder involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender or genders with which he/she/they identify.  People suffering from gender dysphoria can experience significant distress.

“I have also learned that courts in some jurisdictions have required prisons to provide sex reassignment surgery to inmates at taxpayers’ expense.

“I suffer from a similar disorder, which I call ‘Animal Dysphoria.’  I do not identify with being a human being.  I identify with being a Labrador Retriever, and this is causing me horrible emotional and physical distress, as I will point out.  For example, after going through the chow line, I place my food and water on the floor, get on my hands and knees, and eat and drink like a dog.  I can’t help it, try as I might.  I have desperately tried to refrain from doing this, to no avail, and when I do try to resist, I become so emotionally distressed that I end up peeing on the concrete floor.  (There are no carpets here at Pelican Bay.)  As you can imagine I am treated very harshly be my fellow inmates.  They kick me, humiliate me, and force me to chase after tennis balls.  I can’t take it anymore.

“I am being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.  I’m being denied my constitutional rights.  Judge Davis, I beg of you.  Please order Pelican Bay to provide me with animal reassignment surgery at no cost to me.  Or, in the alternative, please order Pelican Bay to release me, so that I can resume a normal life.

“Thank you for taking the time to read this.

“Sincerely, Rover.”

Anyone have any advice as to how Judge Davis should rule?  If your recommendation is that he deny the Petition, what reason should he give?

Bob Kaster

Yreka, CA

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