Name Change


Name Change

Occasionally interesting cases come along and this week I came across a case where an individual wanted to change his name to “Takashi-Kaito Tai-Zaki Ato.”

In Re the Matter of the Application of: Allen LaShawn Pyron, for Change of Name, filed February 10, 2014, A13-1235. (Unpublished.)

Mr. Pyron is indeterminately civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 259.13 (2012), Mr. Pyron applied to have his name changed to “Takashi-Kaito Tai-Zaki Ato” stating that he sought the change “[t]o be able to exercise my religious freedoms of the name change process without having to explain myself.” Given Mr. Pyron’s criminal background, the State of Minnesota objected “arguing that the name change would compromise public safety by hindering accurate record keeping and future investigations.” The district court denied Mr. Pyron’s request and Mr. Pyron appealed.

According to Minn. Stat. § 259.13, when a convicted felon requests a name change, the prosecuting authority or the attorney general may object “on the basis that the request aims to defraud or mislead, is not made in good faith, will cause injury to a person, or will compromise public safety.” Once this objection is made, the burden is on the applicant to prove there is no basis for denying the request. If the denial, however, would infringe on the applicant’s constitutional rights, then the name change request must be granted.

Mr. Pyron argued that his proposed name change would not compromise public safety but he did not provide a transcript of the district court hearing with his application. Without the transcript the Appellate Court had no basis to conclude that the district court had clearly erred in its decision.

Mr. Pyron also argued that the denial of his name change infringed on his constitutional right to freedom of religion. The Appellate Court reviewed “whether (1) the applicant’s religious belief is sincerely held, (2) the state regulation burdens the exercise of religious beliefs, (3) the state interest in the regulation is overriding or compelling, and (4) the state regulation uses the least-restrictive means.” The Court found no evidence of Mr. Pyron’s religion, that he held sincere beliefs, or how changing his name would impact his religion. The Court upheld the district court’s decision to deny Mr. Pyron’s application for a name change.

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