United States v. Varner (a.k.a. Kathrine Nicole Jett)

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Status: Open
United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
Issues: Criminal Justice, Transgender Rights

Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief on behalf of LGBT organizations including Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBT Bar Association, National Trans Bar Association, and Transgender Law Center in support of Kathrine Jett's petition for rehearing en banc at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Amici are asking the court to remove the harmful and disrespectful language in its opinion from January 15, 2020, which denies Ms. Jett's request to be referred to consistently with her gender identity and is an advisory opinion which makes inappropriate factual determinations and legal conclusions.

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In 2018, after changing her name via court order, Kathrine Jett sent a letter to the Judge in the Eastern District of Texas who presided over her criminal case, requesting that the name on the judgment of committal be changed to reflect her legal name. The district court denied Ms. Jett's request. Proceeding pro se, Ms. Jett appealed this decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. While the case was pending at the Fifth Circuit, Ms. Jett sent a request to the Court asking that female pronouns be used to refer to her.  "I am a woman—can I not be referred to as one?," she asked.  On January 15, 2020, the panel majority issued an opinion determining that the lower court did not even have jurisdiction to hear Ms. Jett's request and then used the bulk of the decision to explain why it would not treat Ms. Jett with respect and courtesy by using female pronouns when referring to her. Judge Kyle Duncan, known for his anti-LGBT work prior to being appointed to the bench by Donald Trump, wrote the opinion in this case.