In the significant ruling, a judge of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas overrode the Pennsylvania felony bar to grant a name change for Jordan Xzavier Hilliard, a transgender man.
The Pennsylvania felony bar prevents individuals with felony convictions from obtaining a name change until at least two years have passed since the completion of their sentence, no matter the reason for the name change. As the team successfully argued, the statute is based on manufactured presumptions that violate their client’s constitutional rights.
“First and foremost, we are very happy for Jordan,” said Yingling, who has led the firm’s pro bono litigation efforts for transgender rights since 2019. “We are gratified to have yet another ruling that grants a name change over the felony bar, a law that violates the Pennsylvania Constitution and should never stand in the way of anyone who seeks a name change.”
Yingling and Roman represented Hilliard in this matter with co-counsel Gabriel Arkles and Sydney Duncan of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF).
Reed Smith has collaborated with TLDEF’s nationwide Name Change Project in Pennsylvania since 2014. Since then, Reed Smith has assisted more than 300 transgender individuals statewide secure the names they choose.
The Reed Smith-TLDEF team achieved a big win in December 2021, when the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas granted a name change for a transgender petitioner over the felony bar. One week later, the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas did the same and expressly declared the felony bar to be unconstitutional.
“This latest ruling should be the death knell for the felony bar and prevent it from ever again being used as a barrier against transgender individuals in changing their names,” Yingling said.