EDWARD C. OKEKE v. COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC HEALTH, SC 18677

Judicial District of New Britain

 

Administrative Appeals; Vital Statistics; Whether the Defendant has the Duty or the Authority, Under General Statutes 19a-42 (d) (1), to Amend a Child's Birth Certificate Where the Name on the Birth Certificate Differs From the Name that the Parents Agreed to on the Acknowledgment of Paternity Form. In 2000, the plaintiff and Tamara A. Shockley had a child out of wedlock and completed an acknowledgment of paternity form, listing their child's name as "Nnamdi Ikwunne Okeke." Shockley also completed a birth certificate worksheet in which she listed the child's name as it appeared on the acknowledgment of paternity form. Thereafter, at Shockley's request, a hospital staff member changed the child's name on the birth certificate worksheet to "Nnamdi Ikwunne Shockley-Okeke." In 2007, the plaintiff filed an application with the department of public heath to amend his son's birth certificate pursuant to General Statutes 19a-42 (d) (1). He sought to remove the name "Shockley" from the certificate so that the child's name would appear as it did on the original acknowledgment of paternity form. The defendant commissioner denied the application, and the trial court affirmed the denial. The plaintiff next appealed to the Appellate Court, arguing that the language of 19a-42 (d) (1) directs the commissioner to ensure that the name on the birth certificate corresponds to the name on the acknowledgement of paternity form. In affirming the trial court's judgment, the Appellate Court (122 Conn. App. 373) concluded that the plaintiff's contention was misplaced because he ignored the triggering language of 19a-42 (d) (1), which allows the commissioner to amend a birth certificate only if paternity had not already been shown on the birth certificate. It stated that the unambiguous language of the statute involves determinations of paternity and changing a child's name when it is determined that the biological father is not listed, or is incorrectly listed, on the birth certificate. It then stated that, in the present case, paternity was shown on the birth certificate and there had never been a question regarding the identity of the biological father. It also found that the plaintiff's argument was belied by the acknowledgement of paternity form itself because the plaintiff and Shockley had the option of checking off a box to request that the child's name on the birth certificate correspond to the name on the acknowledgement of paternity form and they failed to do so. Moreover, it essentially found that the plaintiff's request to amend his son's birth certificate did not constitute an "amendment" under General Statutes 7-36 because there was no new information that needed to be added to the birth certificate to accurately reflect the facts existing at the time of the child's birth. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly found that under 19a-42 (d) (1), the commissioner had neither the duty nor the authority to amend the child's birth certificate.