United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
C. FOX Senior United States District Judge.
the court is pro se Defendant's Motion for
Change of Committed Name. [DE 66]. Defendant states he has
converted to Islam and adopted "Abdur-Rahman
As-Salafee" as his Muslim name. Defendant asks the court
to (1) amend the Judgment in a Criminal Case Order [DE 35] to
reflect his Muslim name and (2) order the Bureau of Prisons
("BOP") to recognize his religious name.
January 20, 2009, Defendant pled guilty pursuant to a
memorandum of plea agreement to a four-count indictment, No.
5:08-CR-324-l-F, and a one-count criminal information, No.
5:09-CR-10-l-F. The indictment charged four counts of mailing
threatening communications in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
876(c), and the information charged one count of being a
felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 922(g) and 924. On May 12, 2009, the court
sentenced Defendant to 60 months' imprisonment on count
one of the indictment, 120 months' imprisonment on each
of counts two through four of the indictment and count one of
the information, all to run consecutively, resulting in a
540-month sentence. Defendant converted to Islam and adopted
a Muslim name after he began serving his sentence. There is
no claim or evidence of a legal name change.
motion implicates both his rights under the Free Exercise
Clause of the First Amendment and the BOP's legitimate
penological interests in maintaining continuity of a
prisoner's records and facilitating the desired
familiarity with its inmates. See AH v. Dixon, 912
F.2d 86 (4th Cir. 1990) (discussing the accommodation of both
walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from
the protections of the Constitution." Turner v.
Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84 (1987). Relevant here, the Free
Exercise Clause "protects an inmate's right to legal
recognition of an adopted religious name." Barrett
v. Virginia, 689 F.2d 498, 503 (4th Cir. 1982); see
AH, 912 F.2d at 90 (stating "several courts,
including our own, have expressed approval of the addition of
a prisoner's new [religious] name as a means of
accommodating the prisoner's free exercise rights and the
prison's interests in administrative continuity").
Accordingly, "[w]hen an inmate legally changes his name
for religious purposes, the [BOP], upon notice of such a
change, is required to add the new name to the prison
file." Ephraim v. Angelone, 313 F.Supp.2d 569,
575 (E.D. Va. 2003); see, e.g., United States v.
Baker, 415 F.3d 1273, 1274 (11th Cir. 2005) (holding
"an inmate is entitled to prospective recognition of a
legal name change ... by means of a 'dual-name
policy' [but] ... is not entitled to have documents that
pre-dated his legal name change altered"); Malik v.
Brown, 71 F.3d 724, 727 (9th Cir. 1995) ("The cases
have consistently supported [that] an inmate has a First
Amendment interest in using his religious name, at least in
conjunction with his committed name."); Thacker v.
Dixon, 784 F.Supp. 286, 297 (E.D. N.C. 1991) (finding
use of both committed name and legal Muslim name does not
violate an inmate's First Amendment rights). In this
vein, the BOP's policy regarding name changes provides
that "inmates may adopt name changes in accordance with
religious affiliations . . . [but] [i]t is the
inmate's responsibility to provide [BOP] staff with
verifiable documentation of the name change . . .
." Id. (emphasis added).
restrictions on an inmate's constitutional rights -
including maintaining an inmate's records under the name
listed on the judgment - are at times necessary to serve
"legitimate penological objectives of the corrections
system." Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822
(1974); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 546 (1979)
(stating "mutual accommodation between institutional
needs and objectives" and constitutional rights must
exist). The manner in which the BOP organizes and categorizes
its records is unquestionably "reasonably related to a
legitimate penological objective" - in particular,
the "efficient system of identification and
administration of prisoners within its custody."
Fawaad v. Jones, 81 F.3d 1084, 1087 (11th Cir.
1996). As such, "the mere fact that correctional
authorities maintain a prisoner's records in the name he
used when convicted implicates no constitutional right."
Barrett, 689 F.2d at 503 (stating "how prison
officials choose to organize their records is
quintessentially an administrative matter in which the courts
should not intervene"); see Bowen v. Roy, 476
U.S. 693, 700 (1986) ("The Free Exercise Clause affords
an individual protection from certain forms of governmental
compulsion; it does not afford an individual a right to
dictate the conduct of the Government's internal
Defendant alleges the adoption of an "Islamic name"
but provides no "verifiable documentation of the name
change" in accordance with BOP policy. "[I]n states
where inmates are allowed to change names legally, prisons
are generally required to recognize only legally changed
names." Malik, 71 F.3d at 727; accord
United States v. Hamrick, 3:90-cr-12, 2013 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 63095, at *5 (E.D. Va. May 1, 2013); Green v.
Beck, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67514, at *8 (E.D. N.C. May
15, 2012), affd in relevant part, 539 Fed.App'x
78 (4th Cir. 2013). The Bureau of Prisons currently houses
Defendant at ADX Florence in Florence, Colorado. While
Colorado law allows petitions for name changes, it prohibits
consideration of a legal name change for any petitioner
"previously convicted of a felony" subject to an
exception not applicable here. Colo. Rev. Stat. §
13-15-101(2)(b)(2016). There is no indication that Defendant
qualifies for a legal name change under Colorado
Based on this court's research, three courts in this
circuit have considered the issue presented here. See
United States v. Orr, 3:98-cr-322-GCM-l, 2016 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 170790 (W.D. N.C. Dec. 9, 2016); United States v.
Bowman, 5:01-CR-33-RLV, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82652
(W.D. N.C. June 12, 2013); Hamrick, 2013 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 63095. As here, the inmates were incarcerated in
Hamrick, the court denied defendant's request to
change his committed name to his religious name in the
judgment. Hamrick, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63095, *8.
The court acknowledged defendant's "religious
certificates bearing his assumed name, " but observed
"these documents reflect[ed] no legal name change by any
governmental entity." Id. at *4. In fact, the
court found defendant "failed to demonstrate that he
qualifies for a legal name change under Colorado law."
Id. at *5-6. The court also noted BOP's name
change policy and defendant's failure to provide
verifiable documentation in accordance with that policy.
Bowman - the case relied on by Defendant - the court
denied an inmate's request to replace his committed name
with his religious name. Bowman, 2013 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 82652, at *9. After considering BOP's name change
policy and expressing unfamiliarity with Colorado law, the
court remarked that "[it] may have the ability to
request that the BOP recognize [defendant's new Islamic
name, [but] it is not at all clear that this federal court,
even under its inherent authority, can legally effect a name
change." Id. at *8. Nevertheless, the court
held that "to the extent [d]efendant requests that this
[c]ourt (and the BOP) recognize both his committed
name and his newly adopted Islamic name by adding (a/k/a
"Hamzah Abdullah Ibn-Dawud As-Salafi") in
parentheses under his committed name, [defendant's motion
is granted." Id. at *9-10.
Orr, an inmate asked the court to change
defendant's "post-committed name" despite
providing no "verifiable documentation of the name
change." Orr, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 170790, at
*1. Apparently BOP's refusal to acknowledge
defendant's religious name served as the impetus for his
request. Id. Citing Bowman, the
Orr court explained it lacked "the authority to
effect a legal name change." Id. at *2.
Contrary to Bowman, however, the court held that
without proof of a name change "under the applicable
state laws governing changes of names, " it lacked
authority to "order the BOP to recognize
[defendant's name change." Id.
on the above, the court agrees with the holding in
Orr. Defendant has no constitutional right to
retroactively change the name under which he was convicted.
See Baker, 415 F.3d at 1274. Moreover, the court
lacks authority to order the BOP to recognize Defendant's
religious name. There is no indication that Defendant ...