Feb 082012

This was originally posted by zsnyder to the Italian Citizenship Message Board. I hope he or she does not mind me reposting here. It's primarily for my benefit since I'm using this blog to record my efforts. But perhaps someone else will find this someday that does not stumble across the original post. I know that it took me a long long time to find examples of people who tried to get a court order on their own without a lawyer. So hopefully these re-posts will help someone else's search. Just give credit to the OP, not to me.

After collecting all of the documents requested by the consulate for my jure sanquinis application I noticed that my grandfathers birth certificate contained numerous errors.

The names of him, his father and mother all contained misspellings and his birthdate was off by a few days when compared to his documents from later in life. To make matters worse, he didn’t go by his given Italian name (Natale) but a shortened version of the english translation (Christmas to Chris). This shortened name was recorded on every government document since birth.

I took a shot and contacted the consulate to see what they thought and the response was to fix the birth certificate or find another another route.

Reading the wonderfully informative posts by jschotz and his dealings with amending certificates in court I started to form the case to amend my grandfathers birth record.

I had the birth and marriage records of my great grandfather and great grandmother so that should take care of their names.

My mothers marriage record had my grandfather listed as Chris (Natale) Mento so that helped with fixing his name.

I then contacted the church where he was baptized to see what information they had. Turns out they had him on record with his given Italian name, the date of birth that matched what was listed on later documents, the correct spelling of his parents names, his godparents names (not needed but a nice genealogical find) and in a column noted “Notunda”, his name listed as Natale (Chris) Mento when he married my grandmother.

So now I have two pieces of evidence for each correction with the exception of his birthdate.

For the second piece of evidence I contacted the National Personnel Records Center and requested any information they had on him during his enlistment in the Navy. They sent me his discharge papers which listed a birthdate that matched the baptismal record and his name listed as Chris Anthony Mento.

With these documents in hand I wrote up my case.

*** I should state that I am not a lawyer and comments about my case from here on are only my opinion. What worked for me may not work for you. ***

I decided to file in Philadelphia as they have an e-file service and since I have family in the area, a place to stay should I need to appear. Through the website I chose Trial Division – Civil, Program: Petitions, Case Type: Miscellaneous Petition. It generated a case number, I uploaded my documents and exhibits and paid the fees.

Three days later the Protonotary entered the documents into the system. When I saw the update I printed out two copies of the papers that had his stamp of approval and sent them to the Philadelphia County Sheriffs office to have them served to Department of Vital Records in New Castle, PA. I sent two copies as one was to be served and the court in New Castle also wanted a copy for some reason. I also had to send two checks to the Philadelphia sheriff as they don’t deputize outside the county. The first check was for them to mail my documents to the sheriff in New Castle and the second was for the New Castle sheriff to serve Vital Records. Also included in the packet was a SASE and a sheriffs return service document that would be mailed back to me when Vital Records was served.

Here is the semi-redacted Notice to Defend, Petition and Exhibit Statement:

Notice to Defend.pdf


Exhibit Statement.pdf

I found this template for writing up briefs. It’s for Apple’s Pages application but I saw many others for Word and Word like programs. Makes life much easier.

Court Brief Template

You may notice that Linda Caniglia is listed on the Notice to Defend but not on the Petition or Order. Well, apparently she retired the year before but is still listed on official documents. I was asked by a clerk of the court at a later date to change the respondent to Pennsylvania Department of Health, Division of Vital Records. I assume if you file in PA for corrections that the later is what you want to use.

I haven’t included any of my exhibits but I did want to post the Exhibit Statement for reference. The original birth record says it’s illegal to duplicate this copy by photostat or photograph. The last thing I wanted to do was submit something to the court that would jeopardize my case. jschotz recommended going this route and it seemed to work well for me. The court never asked to see the birth record.

Two weeks after filing a judge was assigned to the case and about a month after filing the Pennsylvania Department of Health responded with a letter of no opposition.

I thought the case was proceeding rather quickly but boy was I in for a surprise. By this time it was mid-November, two months after filing, and nothing has been updated on the website about my case. My appointment with the consulate was only a month and half away.

I called the court and after being transferred around for a while I ended up speaking to one of the friendliest and most helpful clerks. It seems that my case was causing all sorts of confusion in the court.

The first issue is that I had my mother listed as a petitioner. Since she does not reside in Philadelphia county the court felt that it had no jurisdiction and the case should be filed in the county of her residence. I explained that she was listed to lend credence to the petition as she is the daughter of my grandfather. The clerk understood but instructed me to remove her entirely and resubmit the Petition. I asked if I need to file a motion or pay more fees and she no, just email it to her.

Several days later another issue pops up. The clerk that I've been dealing with calls and says they need a letter from Pennsylvania Department of Health stating that I’ve attempted to amend the birth certificate, that PDH DVR has denied my request and that a court order is needed. I send the request to DVR and they fax me a letter a week later which I scan and email to the clerk I’ve been dealing with.

PA DOH letter.pdf

I give her call after sending the email to make sure the letter is acceptable and if she thinks there may be any other issues. She says everything looks fine. I ask her if she has any idea when the hearing might be and if I should file a motion to do it by phone. She says there won’t be any hearing. That seemed odd. We hang up and the next day she calls me and says the judge wants to sign off on my case and that I need to send her an order right away.


By the end of the afternoon I have the order signed by the judge sent to me by fax but I’d have to wait for the ones with a seal to come by mail before forwarding to DVR to have the amendments made.

I should note that two items were left off of that order. One was line 5, which I’ll get to in a moment and one piece that jschotz had on his:

Issue a new certified long form copy of corrected record to said Petitioner within fifteen (15) days of service of the Court Order upon the Respondent.

That last section is important as I found out the hard way that DVR will sit on the corrections. Even though I had overnighted the Order along with an overnight return envelope they sat on the correction for weeks.

It’s now December 20th and I’m about to leave the country, I still don’t have the corrected birth certificate and my appointment is in two weeks. I call DVR and they tell me the correction is being held up because the new birthdate is two days after the original file date. Their system won’t allow this. I’m absolutely furious that they just now bring this to my attention. 

I contact the clerk in Philadelphia about this issue and she asks me to add in line 5 to the Order and email it to her. I tell her I’m leaving the country the next night and she says not to worry about it. The judge signs the new order right there and it’s faxed to DVR along with official versions going out in the mail. Can you say life saver?

December 30th the corrected birth certificate arrives and my appointment is five days later.

In short:

Look everywhere for documents. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at what you find.

Collect all of the evidence you can to make your case. It’s not like it’s a murder case. The judge just wants to see how you’re getting from point A to point B.

Make a copy of everything that you will use in court send it to PDH with along with the application form and correction form. Tell them that you need a letter explaining that a court order is needed to make changes when they deny you.

Write up your case and have others proof it for you. Keep it simple and to the point.

It may seem daunting but the court is there for you.

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