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Circuit courts can’t “correct race/nationality”

Rebecca M. Lightle//March 26, 2018

Circuit courts can’t “correct race/nationality”

Rebecca M. Lightle//March 26, 2018

Neither the Virginia constitution nor any statute conferred jurisdiction on the circuit court to hear petitions for correction of race/nationality, notwithstanding how other states’ courts have treated such petitions.


Petitioners Michael Pacheco and Anthony Harris have requested this court’s leave to “correct [their] race/nationality to: Moor/Americas Aboriginal National.” They assert that certain documents from courts of New York are sufficiently authenticated so as to require this court to give full faith and credit to the decisions of the New York courts, thereby overcoming this court’s lack of jurisdictional and statutory authority.

Circuit court jurisdiction

This court has no jurisdiction to entertain such petitions. One of the most fundamental of all principles in Virginia law is that circuit courts’ jurisdiction to act in a particular matter must be derived from the constitution and statutes of the Commonwealth. Consent of the parties cannot confer jurisdiction, and a judgment rendered without subject-matter jurisdiction is void.

Contrary to the Petitioners’ claims, Virginia’s constitution does not grant circuit courts subject-matter jurisdiction over requests to correct race/nationality. Rather, the constitution grants the legislature the authority to establish the circuit courts’ jurisdiction, which it has done in Code
§ 17.1-513.

This statutory authority, though quite broad, is not unlimited. The court is not aware of any statute or other law that makes the petitions filed herein to correct race/nationality “cognizable” in the circuit courts, pursuant to § 17.1-513. Nor can such jurisdiction fairly be inferred from any statute. The Petitioners appear to believe, in essence, that the mere existence of the circuit courts confers upon those courts generalized authority to adjudicate the relief sought. But in fact, since no specific jurisdiction has been granted by constitution or statute over the subject matter of the petitions, this court is powerless to act.

The Petitioners are also incorrect that this court must entertain the petitions because a foreign court granted unrelated petitions to change or modify some other person’s race/nationality. The Petitioners were not parties to the New York proceedings presented, nor were those proceedings purportedly based upon the “Constitution and the Laws of the United States.” Thus, the New York courts may be presumed to have acted pursuant to the provisions of New York law, and not pursuant to any federal law or the U.S. Constitution. Since no federal law is alleged to require state courts to entertain petitions to correct race/nationality, the Supremacy Clause is inapplicable to the current proceedings.

The Full Faith and Credit Clause also has no application here. Even if New York law confers jurisdiction upon New York courts to grant petitions such as those before this court, the Full Faith and Credit Clause does not confer jurisdiction upon this court to entertain such petitions. It does not operate to import the laws of each state in the Union into the law of every other state in the Union.

For the foregoing reasons, this action is hereby dismissed without prejudice.

In re Pacheco and In re Harris, Case Nos. CL17-6047 and CL17-6046, Mar. 14, 2018. Va. Beach Cir. Ct. (Mahan). VLW No. 018-8-024, 6 pp.

VLW 018-8-024

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