The Oklahoma Supreme Court on April 3, 2014 reversed a trail court decision denying an Oklahoma inmate a hearing in his name change petition. The inmate, Stacey Hemphill, wants to change his name to Apokalypse God Allah.
The Supreme Court decision does not consider the unusual nature of Hemphill’s preferred name. Instead, the court addressed inmates access to civil court and the obligation of district courts to publish local rules with the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network.
“Pursuant to 20 O.S. 2011 §91.8, local court rules must be in writing and must be published by the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network to be valid and enforceable,” the court wrote.
The main issue that brought Hemphill’s prolonged contest in Atoka County District Court to the Supreme Court was the inmate’s failure to appear in person to present testimony. In denying Hemphill’s name change, the Atoka court cited the 25th Judicial District polices along with a 1985 case Johnson v. Scott, 1985 OK 50 and Art. 12 Okla. Stat §1634.
In Johnson v. Scott, the Supreme Court reversed the District Court of Cherokee County in a small claims matter, saying an incarcerated defendant must be allowed to testify by telephone if it is not possible to appear in person. Art. 12 Okla. Stat §1634 simply states that material allegations of a name change petition shall be sustained by sworn testimony.
Having no record of 25th Judicial District rules briefed in the case at hand, and without the rules published by the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network, the court found that “any local rules for the Twenty-Fifth Judicial District are invalid and unenforceable.”