from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Texas
SMITH, DENNIS, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.
KYLE DUNCAN, Circuit Judge
Varner, federal prisoner # 18479-078, appeals the denial of
his motion to change the name on his judgment of confinement
to "Kathrine Nicole Jett." The district court
denied the motion as meritless. We conclude that the district
court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the motion and so
vacate the court's judgment. In conjunction with his
appeal, Varner also moves that he be addressed with female
pronouns. We will deny that motion.
2012, Varner pled guilty to one count of attempted receipt of
child pornography and was sentenced to 180 months in prison,
to be followed by 15 years supervised release. Varner's
federal sentence was influenced by his previous convictions
at the state level for possession of child pornography and
failure to register as a sex offender. In 2018, Varner wrote
a letter to the district court requesting that the name on
his judgment of committal ("Norman Keith Varner")
be changed to reflect his "new legal name of Kathrine
Nicole Jett." Varner's letter explained that he
"ca[me] out as a transgender woman" in 2015, began
"hormone replacement therapy" shortly after, and
planned to have "gender reassignment surgery in the near
future" in order to "finally become fully
female." Attached to Varner's letter was a certified
copy of a 2018 order from a Kentucky state court changing
government opposed Varner's request, arguing principally
that Varner alleged no defect in the original judgment and
that a "new preferred name" was not a basis for
amending a judgment. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 36 (upon
notice, court may "correct a clerical error in a
judgment, order, or other part of the record"). The
government also pointed out that, under Bureau of Prisons
("BOP") regulations, Varner would be able to use
his preferred name as a secondary name or alias. See
BOP Policy No. 5800.15, § 402(d). Finally, the
government argued that Varner's name change was, in any
event, improperly obtained under Kentucky law: Varner swore
in his petition that he was then a resident of
"Covington, Kentucky," when, in fact, he was at the
time incarcerated at a federal facility in Waymart,
district court construed Varner's letter as a motion to
correct his judgment of committal and denied it on the
merits. The court reasoned that a "new, preferred name
is not a legally viable basis to amend the previously entered
Judgment," and, moreover, that inmates have no
constitutional right to have prison records reflect a new
name. Order at 2 (citing United States v. Baker, 415
F.3d 1273, 1274 (11th Cir. 2005); United States v.
White, 490 Fed.Appx. 979, 982 (10th Cir. 2012);
United States v. Jordan, 162 F.3d 93 (5th Cir.
1998)). Additionally, the court concluded that Varner
"does not appear to have legally changed his name"
under Kentucky law because his prison records reflected that
he was not a resident of Kentucky when he petitioned for a
name change. Order at 2-3 (citing Ky. Rev. Stat. §
401.010). Finally, the court noted that the relief Varner
sought is "achievable without amending the
Judgment." Id. at 3. As the court explained,
BOP regulations allow Varner to use "Kathrine Nicole
Jett" as a secondary name and also authorize BOP staff
"to use either gender-neutral or an inmate's
requested gender-specific pronoun or salutation when
interacting with transgender inmates." Id.
(citing BOP Policy No. 5800.15, § 402(d); BOP Policy No.
5200.04, § 11).
appealed the district court's denial of his motion to
amend the judgment, which we review de novo. See
United States v. Douglas, 696 Fed.Appx. 666, 668 (5th
Cir. 2017) (per curiam) (citing United States v.
Ramirez-Gonzalez, 840 F.3d 240, 246 (5th Cir. 2016));
see also United States v. Davis, 841 F.3d 1253, 1261
(11th Cir. 2016). Along with his appeal, Varner has filed
various motions in our court, including a "motion to use
female pronouns when addressing Appellant" and motions
to "submit [his] photograph into evidence" or to
"appear . . . either by phone, video-conference, or in
the district court's reasons are well-taken, we conclude
that Varner's request to change the name on his judgment
of commitment was "an unauthorized motion which the
district court was without jurisdiction to entertain."
United States v. Early, 27 F.3d 140, 142 (5th Cir.
1994). Our jurisdiction is predicated upon the valid
jurisdiction of the district court, and so we must examine
the basis for the district court's jurisdiction.
United States v. Key, 205 F.3d 773, 774 (5th Cir.
2000); Mosley v. Crosby, 813 F.2d 659 (5th Cir.
1987). "Absent jurisdiction conferred by statute,
district courts lack power to consider claims."
Veldhoen v. United States Coast Guard, 35 F.3d 222,
225 (5th Cir. 1994). "If the district court lacked
jurisdiction, '[o]ur jurisdiction extends not to the
merits but merely for the purpose of correcting the error of
the lower court in entertaining the suit.'"
Key, 205 F.3d at 774 (quoting New York Life Ins.
Co. v. Deshotel, 142 F.3d 873, 882 (5th Cir. 1998)). We
conclude that Varner's motion was unauthorized by any
statute and that the district court therefore lacked
jurisdiction to entertain it.
letter request does not fall into any of the recognized
categories of postconviction motions. Although a district
court has authority to correct a sentence under Federal Rule
of Criminal Procedure 35 and to correct clerical mistakes in
judgments and orders under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure
36, Varner's request does not fall under either rule. The
request did not implicate Rule 35 because it was neither made
"[w]ithin 14 days after sentencing," nor was it
made by the government. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 35(a)
(allowing court to correct "arithmetical, technical, or
other clear error" in sentence "[w]ithin 14 days
after sentencing"); id. 35(b)(1), (2) (allowing
sentence reduction on certain grounds "[u]pon the
government's motion"). Nor did the request implicate
Rule 36 because it did not seek correction of a
"clerical error in [the] judgment." Fed. R. Crim.
P. 36. A clerical error occurs "when the court intended
one thing but by merely clerical mistake or oversight did
another." United States v. Buendia-Rangel, 553
F.3d 378, 379 (5th Cir. 2008); see also
Ramirez-Gonzalez, 840 F.3d at 247 (Rule 36 is a
"limited tool[ ] meant only to correct mindless and
mechanistic mistakes") (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted). A name change obtained six years after
entry of judgment is not a clerical error within the meaning
of Rule 36.
Varner's request authorized under 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(2) because it was not based upon an amendment to the
Sentencing Guidelines. See § 3582(c)(2)
(permitting court to modify term of imprisonment "based
on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by
the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. [§]
994(o)"). Additionally, the district court could not
construe the request as a motion arising under 18 U.S.C.
§ 3742, which applies only to direct appeals. See
Early, 27 F.3d at 142 (explaining that relief under
§ 3742 is "available . . . only upon direct appeal
of a sentence or conviction"). Finally, the request did
not arise under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 because Varner did not
challenge the validity of his conviction or sentence. See
United States v. Segler, 37 F.3d 1131, 1137 (5th Cir.
1994) (explaining "Congress . . . meant to limit the
types of claims ...