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Delk v. Moran

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

March 11, 2019

STEVEN R. DELK, Plaintiff,
BRIAN MORAN, et al., Defendants.



         Steven R. Delk, also known as Ja-Quitha “Earth” Camellia, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging various violations of his constitutional rights while housed at Red Onion State Prison (“ROSP”).[1] This memorandum opinion will address Dr. McDuffie's[2] motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 133. For the reasons that follow, I will grant the motion.


         A. Background

         At the times relevant to this case, Delk was an inmate at ROSP. Dr. McDuffie is a private psychiatrist contracted by ROSP through his employer to provide psychiatric services to inmates. He has extensive experience as a psychiatrist, including treatment of patients demonstrating gender identity dysphoria (“GID”). As a contracted psychiatrist, Dr. McDuffie only sees inmates who have been referred to him by Qualified Mental Health Professionals (“QMHPs”) at ROSP. Generally, a QMHP refers an inmate to Dr. McDuffie when the inmate has observable mental health symptoms or distress that may be treated with medication. Dr. McDuffie is part of a multidisciplinary team at ROSP and receives input from various individuals involved with Delk's medical care.

         B. Treatment History

         In 2014 and 2015, a QMHP visited Delk at least once every ninety days to discuss and assess his mental health. Before May 15, 2015, the QMHPs did not note any issues with Delk's mental health. On May 15, 2015, Delk told a QMHP that he needed to see a psychiatrist, but he denied having any mental illness symptoms. The QMHP reported Delk's request but noted that Delk did not display any signs or symptoms of mental illness or abnormal thought content. In June 2015, QMHP Trent performed a routine mental health exam and Delk again showed no signs of a serious disorder. QMHP Trent rated Delk's mental health classification as “0, ” meaning no impairment noted, and specifically found that Delk: (1) had not been prescribed any psychotropic medication for mental disorders; (2) had not been diagnosed with any DSM-5[3] disorder that would lead to deteriorations, self-harm, and/or being a danger to others; (3) had not received any inpatient mental health treatment within the past two years; and (4) had no suicide attempts or incidents of self-injurious behavior within the past two years. Ex. A. at 25, dkt. 134-1.[4]

         On August 9, 2015, Delk filed an informal complaint stating:

I have continued to request to see the psychologist or psychiatrist because of the intense environment I am in security level (5) and recent events that have had and are having severe emotional effects on me. I spoke to QMHP Trent but he said he would E-mail the doctor. But I have yet to speak to him. Please explain.

Id. at 26. QMHP Trent responded on August 13: “Mr. Delk, I did speak to the Dr. and he determined that at this time a psychiatric appointment is not needed. Please let me know of any new symptoms. Thanks.” Id. In August 2015, Delk did not have any observable mental health symptoms or distress, and he did not inform the QMHPs of any serious psychiatric issues.

         Over a year later, on November 2, 2016, Delk submitted a grievance to the Mental Health Chief, stating that he was “a woman in a man's body.” Ex. A at 2. The grievance was the first record of Delk expressing his desire to be treated as a woman, and he was referred shortly after to Dr. McDuffie for an assessment on Gender Identity Dysphoria (“GID”).[5] On December 30, 2016, Dr. McDuffie evaluated Delk. Delk told Dr. McDuffie a personal history of longstanding GID issues, and Dr. McDuffie found that Delk met the criteria for GID and may also have a personality disorder. Dr. McDuffie suggested a GID assessment and noted that, “in general [Delk] is a typical example of an over 40 male to female transsexual ‘coming out' and starting.” Id. at 4. QMHP Trent, QMHP Huff, and Dr. Lee, the Mental Health Clinical Supervisor, later assessed Delk and determined that he satisfied six of the GID diagnostic criteria:

1 A marked incongruence between one's experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex cha.racteristics. Offender Delk reported that at age 7 he initially realized he was not like other boys and wanted to be a girl. He reports that this has been a pervasive belief throughout his lifetime.
2. A strong desire to be rid of one's primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one's experienced/expressed gender. Offender Delk refers to his penis as “my clitoris” and his testicles as “my ovaries.” When asked about his goals for treatment, Offender Delk stated that he wanted a transformation, via surgery and hormone therapy, to the female gender. According to Dr. McDuffie's notes, Offender Delk stated he had once tried to tie a string to his penis so that it would fall off.
3. A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender. Offender Delk repeatedly stated throughout the interview that he believes he is a female and wants to have a vagina and breasts.
4. A strong desire to be of the other gender. Offender Delk reported that he has identified as being a woman and has identified as such all of his adult life. There is not evidence or documentation in his previous VADOC records to confirm or corroborate his assertions. He refuses to sign a Confidential Release of Information for anyone having knowledge of his assertions, including his family members.
5. A strong desire to be treated as the other gender. Offender Delk has not requested to be addressed in the feminine vernacular versus the masculine vernacular. There are no records or other corroboration of a strong desire to be treated ...

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