In the interest of C.G. No. 2018AP2205 (Wis. 2022)
Nature of Case: The petitioner in this case, Ella, is a transgender woman. When she was a juvenile, Ella entered a plea of no contest in a delinquency proceeding to the sexual assault of a child under the age of 16. The assault occurred when Ella was 15 years old. Ella, who was assigned male at birth and given a traditionally masculine legal name, entered the juvenile justice system identifying as a male. Sometime thereafter, Ella began to openly identify as a transgender woman and use the name Ella. Ella believes that her legal name is incompatible with her gender identity.
As a result of her conviction, Ella is required to register on Wisconsin’s sex offense registry. One aspect of sex offense registration is that a person subject to the registry cannot undergo a legal name change. Ella challenges that restriction.
Ella argues that requiring her to register as a sex offender: (1) constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution as applied to her; and (2) violates her right to free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Both arguments rest on Ella’s inability to change her legal name to conform to her gender identity.
Holding: The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed the holding of the Court of Appeals, rejecting Ella’s arguments. The Court concluded that (1) under well established precedent, placement on the registry is not a “punishment” under the Eighth Amendment and, even if it was, registration is neither cruel not unusual, and (2) Ella’s right to free speech does not encompass the power to compel the State to facilitate a change of her legal name.
Brian Hagedorn, J. filed a concurring opinion.
Ann Walsh Bradley, J. filed a dissenting opinion in which Rebecca Frank Dallet and Jill Karofsky, JJ., joined.
- Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion | view via Google Scholar
News and Related Materials
- The Volokh Conspiracy – “Pronouns and Cases Involving Transgender Parties”
- The Volokh Conspiracy – “Ban on Legal Name Changes by Sex Offenders Doesn’t Violate First Amendment Rights of Transgender Offenders”