Valentine's Day Feeling
I found this news story to be very interesting. From the Richmond Register, by Bill Robinson, Register News Writer:
Winchester — James Martin showed up in Clark District Court on Wednesday but was unable to pay a $674 fine.
Judge Earl Ray Neal, who serves both Clark and Madison counties, then sentenced him to jail for failure to pay, and Martin waited with other defendants to be transported to the Clark County Jail.
After Martin was sentenced, Neal said he noticed a woman who had spoken with the defendant leave the courtroom and return a short time later.
As Neal announced that the day’s docket was concluded and asked if anyone else had business before the court, the woman held up a receipt from the district court clerk and told Neal she had paid Martin’s fine.
Neal then called Martin back to the bench, informed him his fine had been paid and asked if he had learned a lesson from the experience.
“Obviously your wife or your sister had other things she would rather be doing today than sit in court and pay your fine,” the judge said.
“She’s not my wife or sister,” Neal said Martin told him, “she’s my girlfriend of 14 years.”
Neal then reminded Martin that district judges are authorized to perform wedding ceremonies. “Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I’d be happy to marry you two at no charge,” he said.
“Would you really?” Martin asked.
Martin, followed by a bailiff, then walked back to where his girlfriend, Elizabeth, was seated.
Martin was still in custody, and Neal said, “I didn’t know what was going to happen. He went up to her, dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him. She said ‘yes.’”
The bride-to-be then told Neal that after paying the fine the couple had no money to buy a marriage license.
Not to be outdone by Neal in smoothing the path of true love, Clark County Attorney Brian Thomas said, “Let’s take up a collection.”
Neal, Thomas and two others came up with the necessary $24, and a Winchester police officer accompanied the couple to the county clerk’s office.
“You can say I outdid the judge in my contribution,” Thomas said.
James and Elizabeth soon returned with their license. Thomas then volunteered to serve as best man and bench clerk Debbie Smith agreed to be maid of honor.
“We found a plastic flower for the bride to hold,” Neal said, “and I performed my first wedding ceremony in district court.”
“You could see they were very happy and very much in love,” the judge said. “It was just a sweet, romantic story and very appropriate thing to do the day before Valentine’s Day.”
“I love this job,” said Neal, who was elected in November as one of three judges of the 25th Judicial District. “It really is wonderful to be able to serve.”