Wisconsin judges have substantial latitude when granting petitions for name changes.
But a Milwaukee woman tested those boundaries Friday morning before Judge William Pocan.
Diana Rose Walker, 43, requested a name change to Draculaura Blood-Countess Vampira Tlahuelpuchi.
The woman said she had recently been mistaken by police for another woman named Diana Walker and that was her primary reason for the name change.
While Pocan suggested the woman could have petitioned for a less flamboyant name to avoid future identity confusion – Tlahuelpuchi is an ancient Mexican word for a shape-shifting female vampire – he nevertheless granted the request.
“Assuming you are not asking to change your name for any illegal purpose,” he told the woman, “I pretty much will call anyone whatever they want to be called.”
Still, at several points during the Friday proceeding, Pocan questioned the wisdom of the woman’s decision and her understanding of complications the new name will likely cause.
“I see a lot of people who come in here with a lot of difficulty with unusual names,” he said. “I think this new name is going to cause you difficulties.”
Pocan acknowledged that the petition is the most unusual name change he has come across as a judge in the Civil Division, but eccentricity is not grounds for denial.
Civil Division Judge Timothy Witkowiak said he has never denied a name change petition, and the vast majority involve individuals looking for a fresh start.
On Wednesday, Witkowiak granted a name change request by a West Allis woman who he said wanted to escape a tumultuous past.
Mary Anne Whyte became Grae-Mercy Dragonfly Whyte-Derrick.
“Typically, people want to move in a different direction and that’s fine,” Witkowiak said.“People that change sexes — I’ve seen those quite frequently actually and if they want to change their whole life and personality, that’s fine.”
The petitions are not automatic though.
Pending criminal charges, outstanding civil debt or placement on the sexual predator registry are red flags, Pocan said, and warrant an explanation from petitioners.
State statute doesn’t permit name changes for minors if proper notice hasn’t been given to one parent. Judges also cannot make a paternity determination and amend birth certificates until the identity of the father is proven.
If a person has a questionable background or potential mental health issues, Pocan said he will often schedule a second hearing.
“If the person doesn’t come back (to court),” he said, “they may not have been that serious about it and it was probably a wise decision on my part not to grant it.”