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Just Call Me Santa

IMG_3049.jpgThe court hears many name change petitions for both adults and minors. Most name change requests are for reasons you might expect: a child wants to take his stepfather's last name; a woman wants to restore her maiden name years after a divorce; or a man is unhappy with the first name his parents gave him and wants a new name of his choosing.

However, some name change petitions are quite unusual. Take the case of David Lynn Porter. Porter asked the Third District Court in Salt Lake City to change his name to Santa Claus and the court denied his request. The appellant's brief stated that "...to Porter's dismay Judge Timothy Hanson of the Third District Court denied this jolly old elf's request." He appealed to the Utah Supreme Court and asked that the Court reverse the Third District Court's holding and change his name to Santa Claus, and in the alternative, to Kris Kringle. The Court did in fact reverse and remand the case back to the lower court, where Porter's name was legally changed to Santa Claus. Want to read the appellant's brief? Download it here.

In the Court's opinion, Justice Wilkins, writing for the majority, stated: "Porter's proposed name may be thought by some to be unwise, and it may very well be more difficult for him to conduct his business and his normal everyday affairs as a result. However, Porter has the right to select the name by which he is known, within very broad limits. Significantly, Porter already tells others that he is Santa Claus. Allowing him to legally change his name to reflect his practice of doing so is more likely to avoid greater confusion than to create it by making Porter legally responsible for his actions in the name Santa Claus." Read the entire Supreme Court opinion here.

If you're interested in other name change cases, check out this Slate article by law professor Eugene Volokh: 1069, Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii And Other Names So Weird That Judges Forbade Them.

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