Supreme Court throws out, puts to bed long-running 'Nelery' name case

Supreme Court building in Tartu.
Supreme Court building in Tartu. Source: Supreme Court of Estonia

A Rakvere family will be able to call their two-year-old daughter Nelery, as per their wishes, following a Supreme Court decision Tuesday not to even hear the case.

The town's city government had tried to block the name and require the family to spell the first name "Neleri", with an "-i", as opposed to "Nelery" with a "-y", taking the case all the way to the highest court in the land after the second-tier circuit court had ruled in the family's favor last month.

Rakvere's mayor, Triin Varek (Center), said that the interior ministry had put pressure on pursuing the case, nominally taken up by the city government itself, in order to obtain legal clarity on the matter.

Enel Pungas, the head of the ministry's population operations department, said that if the family were to win the Supreme Court case, which would have been heard in cassation (a court of cassation being one which does not re-examine the facts of a case, having only to interpret the relevant law - ed.), the relevant legislation, the Names Act, would require amendment.

Nonetheless and in a further twist, a Nelery – same spelling – had been born and legally registered in the same town, population around 16,000, 25 years ago, with no issue at that time.

In the event the Supreme Court, based in Tartu, threw the case out, leaving the parents with the right to use the spelling of their choice.

Tart Circuit Court had made the ruling that Rakvere authorities must enter the Nelery spelling into the population registry.

The two-year case followed the birth of the child, whose mother wished to name them Nelery, with the first-tier county court having already ruled in the family's favor.

The main issue concerned the letter "-y", which is not in the Estonian alphabet, but which is found in many different female names, particularly at the end (Gerly, Ly, Annely etc.;, including Reform MP Annely Akkermann).

Nelery's family said that a "-y' "appears in both her grandmother and aunt's names as well.

Recent changes at the interior ministry have seen the abolition, not for the first time, of a minister of population affairs, a post held by Riina Solman (Isamaa) in the last administration, following the change in government in January, and the installation of Kristian (with an "-i" - ed.) Jaani as minister.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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