Jen Orthwein (Pronouns: Any; Honorific: Dr.) is a Founding Partner of Medina Orthwein LLP, a public interest law firm specializing in employment and civil rights individual and class action cases. Jen Orthwein founded the firm to incorporate the unique perspective they garnered from their previous career as a forensic psychologist into their legal practice. While working inside a California prison, Jen amassed a wealth of insight about the inner workings of California’s carceral system and its impact on the people caged within it.
In 2013, Jen transitioned from a career in mental health to one focused on legal and policy issues related to transgender and gender variant individuals, particularly those impacted by the criminal justice system. Jen helped launch the Detention Project at the Transgender Law Center and served as pro bono Senior Counsel from 2013 to 2016. As Senior Counsel, Jen assisted in the representation of two California prisoners, Michelle-Lael Norsworthy and Shiloh Quine. These cases were among the first to survive motions to dismiss using Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment legal theories in relation to access to gender affirming care. They helped pave the way to establish gender transition related medical, social and legal access within California prisons.
Currently, Jen dedicates much of their time fighting for transgender individuals in prisons through membership in coalitions including California’s Transgender Advocacy Group (TAG) and the national Transgender Prisoner Rights Advocates and lobbying for state-wide reform. In the 2019 legislative cycle, Jen assisted with efforts to pass SB 132, which requires the California Department of Corrections (CDC) to house transgender people in accordance with their perception of safety. Jen has also been actively involved in the Conference of California Bar Associations, through the National Lawyers’ Guild and Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, which they have drafted, debated and passed resolutions aimed at efforts to afford greater protection and rights to communities impacted by state violence and oppression.
Jen previously maintained a successful legal and psychological consulting practice providing expert witness services to attorneys. Their work focused on assisting attorneys representing transgender people involved in civil and criminal cases. Jen has co-authored publications related to practitioner liability in cases of suicide, both in the community and in prison, as well as gender bias in the California criminal justice system. They were also a co-principal investigator for the Transgender Research Consortium, which aimed to provide empirical evidence on the impact of discrimination on transgender people’s physical and mental health and to use this data to provide recommendations to inform public policy, education, training, and clinical practice.
Jen received a J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Palo Alto University. They completed their pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship at the California Correctional Medical Facility (CMF). During law school, they served as a Law Clerk at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Honors and Awards
2018 San Francisco Pride, Heritage of Pride Freedom Award For outstanding contributions to advancing civil rights and freedom for LGBTQ people.
2017 Minority Bar Coalition Unity Award Unity Awards honor individuals who have shown dedication to working in a unified manner to advance the cause of diversity in the legal profession.
2003-2007 Feeder School Fellowship/Pacific Graduate School of Psychology
2003 Computer Assisted Learning Institute (CALI) Award in Writing and Research
2002 – 2006 Student Merit Scholarship/Golden Gate University
2002 – 2006 Dean’s List at Golden Gate University School of Law Fall 2002, Spring 2003, Spring and Fall 2005, and Spring 2006.
Chair, Board of Directors, Trans Lifeline
Director, Board of Directors, National Lawyers Guild – SF Bay Area Chapter
Prior Director, Board of Directors, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF)
Prior Trustee, Board of Trustees of Palo Alto University
Prior Director, Freedom for All Americans