Turner v. White
When Daunn Turner, 52, a transgender woman in Will County, Illinois, applied for a name change, she also petitioned for a waiver of court fees based on her status as a low-income, disabled person. The court refused to allow Turner to proceed with her name change while the request for a fee waiver was pending. Turner waited several weeks before she heard from the Will County Chief Judge, who denied her application for the fee waiver by in a phone call and told her that the name change was “something she wanted” rather than “something that she needed.” The Chief Judge then refused to follow proper procedure, which would have assigned Turner a case number and provided her with a written denial of the fee waiver. When Turner asked the Chief Judge if she could appeal the decision, the Chief Judge claimed he was the final decision maker, and that she should ask for money from friends on her upcoming birthday to fund the court fees for a name change. Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on Turner’s behalf, urging the Illinois Supreme Court to enforce proper procedure in the lower court, so that she can continue the process to legally change her name.
Under Illinois law, all low-income individuals who cannot afford court fees are entitled to a waiver of the fees associated with legal proceedings. Additionally, in Illinois, as in most states, name changes are permissible for any reason other than to perpetuate a fraud.
Lambda Legal's Impact
This case seeks to make sure that all people have equal access to the courts — particularly those members of society who are most vulnerable to bias or prejudice.
- January 2008 Complaint filed in Illinois Supreme Court
Christopher Clark, Cole Thaler