Case Style: Jaynes, petitioner
Case Number: 14-P-1248
Judge: Amy Lyn Blake
Court: Massachusetts Appeals Court
Plaintiff's Attorney: Robert Lee Curley
Defendant's Attorney: Michael Adam Chinman
Description: On June 18, 2012, Charles Jaynes filed a petition pursuant to G. L. c. 210, § 12, to change his name,1
citing in support of his request his "Wiccan religious tenets." After a hearing, a judge of the Probate and Family Court denied the petition. On appeal, Jaynes argues that the judge abused her discretion and that the denial violates the free exercise clause of the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; art. of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights; art. 46 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution; and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq. (2012). We affirm.
1. Background. Jaynes is currently serving a life sentence, with the possibility of parole, for the 1997
kidnapping and second degree murder of a ten year old boy. See Commonwealth v. Jaynes, 55 Mass. App. Ct. 301 (2002). After
Jaynes filed his petition, an order entered requiring notice by publication. Following publication in a local newspaper, nine
individuals filed affidavits of objection; three of those persons also filed appearances in the matter. One of those
three was the victim's father. On November 20, 2012, a hearing was held, at which Jaynes testified that "my old heathen name is religiously offensive. It is also spiritually debilitating due to the fact that God and
Jesus Christ had given me a new name." Based on his testimony, the judge found that a name change is not essential to Jaynes's
Jaynes was the only witness who testified on his behalf.
Wiccan faith. Jaynes does not challenge this finding on appeal.3
The victim's father, his counsel Michael Chinman, and two of the
other nine objectors spoke in opposition. The victim's father
briefly described the crimes Jaynes had committed and noted
Jaynes's prior use of aliases and the number of outstanding
warrants he had when he was arrested. Chinman argued that a
name change would not be in the public interest, given the
seriousness of Jaynes's prior offenses. The additional two
objectors echoed that position.
2. Legal standard. An individual has a right, at common
law, to freely assume a name of his or her own choosing,
"provided that this is done for an honest purpose." Merolevitz,
petitioner, 320 Mass. 448, 450 (1946), and cases cited. General
Laws c. 210, § 12, was enacted in furtherance of this right, to
allow a petitioner to secure an "official record which
definitely and specifically establishes his change of name."
Verrill, petitioner, 40 Mass. App. Ct. 34, 35-36 (1996), quoting
from Buyarsky, petitioner, 322 Mass. 335, 338 (1948). It
provides that "[t]he change of name of a person shall be granted
unless such change is inconsistent with public interests."
G. L. c. 210, § 12, as amended by St. 1977, c. 869, § 3.
Jaynes testified that his request for a name change is to further his relationship with God.
Therefore, the right to change one's name through the legal
process is not absolute.
When a prisoner's right to a name change is at issue, the
public interests at stake are heightened, particularly if the
prisoner may be paroled in the future. In Verrill, petitioner,
supra, this court was presented with a very similar set of facts
to the ones present here; the petitioner was a prisoner facing
possible parole, with a record of convictions of murder and
kidnapping. We affirmed the probate judge's denial of the
petition, as "granting the petitioner a name change would likely
cause significant confusion in the criminal justice system if he
were ever released . . . [and] would not be in the public
interest if the petitioner were able later to elude criminal
prosecution and conceal his identity." Id. at 37.
3. Public interests. The judge found that Jaynes's
requested name change is "inconsistent with public interests."
In support of this finding, the judge cited his use of multiple
aliases prior to his most recent incarceration, the number of
warrants he had outstanding at the time of his arrest (at least
sixty), the serious nature of his convictions,4 and his
Jaynes was convicted for his role in killing the victim with a gasoline-soaked rag. After the killing, Jaynes and Salvatore Sicari placed the victim's body in a container with cement and dumped it in a river in Maine. See Commonwealth v. Jaynes, 55 Mass. App. Ct. at 302-303.
eligibility for parole after serving fifteen years. The judge
opined that Jaynes's petition for a name change could cause
confusion in the various departments of the criminal justice
system and that the accuracy and consistency of such records is
in the public interest.
"[A] judge's discretionary decision constitutes an abuse of
discretion where we conclude the judge made 'a clear error of
judgment in weighing' the factors relevant to the decision,
. . . such that the decision falls outside the range of
reasonable alternatives." L.L. v. Commonwealth, 470 Mass. 169,
185 n.27 (2014). Here, the judge's analysis is on all fours
with Verrill, petitioner, supra; there was no abuse of
4. Free exercise of religion. In making a free exercise
claim, it is the plaintiff's initial burden to demonstrate that
the "right to freely exercise his religious beliefs has been
burdened." Rasheed v. Commissioner of Correction, 446 Mass.
463, 472 (2006). The degree of burden necessary to trigger a
further analysis of the judge's justification for her decision
must be "substantial." Curtis v. School Comm. of Falmouth, 420
Mass. 749, 761 (1995). In other words, "[the] burden must be
more than a perceived or hypothetical one. It must have a
tendency to coerce an individual into acting 'contrary to [his]
religious beliefs.'" Rasheed v. Commissioner of Correction,
supra at 473, quoting from Attorney Gen. v. Desilets, 418 Mass.
316, 324 (1994).
Thus, in order to proceed on his free exercise claim,
Jaynes must make a threshold showing that changing one's name is
an important component of the Wiccan religion, and that, absent
such a change, he would be limited in the exercise of his
religious beliefs.5 This he has failed to do. At the hearing,
Jaynes provided a first-person narrative describing the origins
of his chosen new name, how several Biblical characters changed
their names during the course of their relationship with God,
and how he, similarly, would like to use the new name God has
provided him. Jaynes did not describe, however, any tenets of
the Wiccan religion beyond the existence of certain deities; how
he, specifically, goes about his religious practice; or how a
denial of his petition would hinder the exercise of his Wiccan
faith. Nor does he challenge the judge's finding that "although
name changes are encouraged, they are not essential under his
5. Equal protection of the law. A claim under the equal
protection clause requires that Jaynes show that (1) in
comparison with others similarly situated, he was selectively
We note that the petitioner in Verrill, petitioner, asserted no claim based upon his right to free exercise of religion. See id. at 36 & n.4.
treated and (2) that "such selective treatment was based on
impermissible considerations such as race, religion, . . .
intent to inhibit or punish the exercise of constitutional
rights, or malicious or bad faith intent to injure a person."
DuPont v. Commissioner of Correction, 448 Mass. 389, 398-399
(2007), quoting from Cote-Whitacre v. Department of Pub. Health,
446 Mass. 350, 376 (2006). To meet this burden, Jaynes must
"first 'identify and relate specific instances where persons
situated similarly "in all relevant aspects" were treated
differently, instances which have the capacity to demonstrate
that [he was] "singled . . . out for unlawful oppression."'"
Rubinovitz v. Rogato, 60 F.3d 906, 910 (1st Cir. 1995), quoting
from Dartmouth Review v. Dartmouth College, 889 F.2d 13, 19 (1st
Cir. 1989). Having failed to identify any other prisoners
similarly situated to himself "in all relevant aspects," e.g.,
other prisoners convicted of violent crimes with extensive
criminal histories, including the use of aliases, who may be
paroled in the future and who sought and received name changes,
Jaynes fails to meet this threshold requirement. Accordingly,
this claim also fails as a matter of law.
6. RLUIPA.6 As the judge's decision passes muster under
the Massachusetts Constitution, it necessarily meets the
The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a) (2012) (RIULPA), provides that:
requirements of RLUIPA. See Ahmad v. Department of Correction,
446 Mass. 479, 485 (2006) ("While RLUIPA holds the government to
a higher standard than that required [by Turner v. Safley, 482
U.S. 78 (1987)], with respect to the free exercise of religion
. . . that standard is consistent with the stricter standard we
adopted [under the Massachusetts Constitution] in Rasheed v.
Commissioner of Correction, supra at 472-475"). No further
analysis is required.
Outcome: Decree denying petition for name change affirmed.