Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Judges May Again Get Paid for Performing Marriage Ceremonies on Weekends, Holidays
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Judges—after being banned for six-and-a-half months from accepting fees for performing marriages on weekends and legal holidays—may again get paid for that work, the Judicial Council said in an announcement yesterday.
It reported that the California Supreme Court’s Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions has rescinded its Dec. 9, 2016 warning as to the effect of legislation effective Jan. 1, 2017, explaining that the law has again been changed, as of July 14.
The committee alerted judges last December that Family Code §400 had been amended to permit former elected officials to perform marriage ceremonies, but in the process of so changing the statute, the acceptance of fees was prohibited by anyone officiating at a wedding. The committee commented at the time:
“California judges have long been authorized by Family Code section 400 to perform marriages; however, the amendment prohibiting acceptance of compensation is new and conflicts with another statute and the California Code of Judicial Ethics when applied to judicial officers. Canon 4H provides that judges ‘“may receive compensation and reimbursement of expenses as provided by law’ for permitted extrajudicial activities. Canon 4H(3) permits judges to accept ‘fees or other things of value received pursuant to Penal Code section 94.5 for performance of a marriage.’ Penal Code section 94.5. which was not simultaneously amended by the Legislature, permits acceptance of a fee by judicial officers for performance of a marriage on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. Thus, the newly enacted Family Code prohibition on accepting fees is inconsistent with canon 4H and Penal Code section 94.5, and with long-standing practices under those laws.”
Sec. 400(b) was amended to read: “Consistent with Section 94.5 of the Penal Code and provided that any compensation received is reasonable, including payment of actual expenses, a marriage may also be solemnized by any of the following persons:” with sitting and retired state and federal judicial officers being among those enumerated.
The amendment was effected by AB 430, authored by Assembly member Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks. It was enacted as emergency legislation with no votes in opposition in either house.
Penal Code §94.5 was enacted in 1959 to restrict judges to receiving fees for marriage ceremonies to off-duty days after disclosures were made the previous year that Los Angeles Superior Court George Dockweiler and Los Angeles Municipal Court Ida May Adams were conducting businesses in their courtrooms, each deriving an estimated $10,000 a year (equivalent to $82,000 today, using the Consumer Price Index) for wedding services.
In May 15, 1958 testimony before the Judiciary Committee on the Administration of Justice, Los Angeles Municipal Court Presiding Judge Byron J. Walters (a former member of the Assembly who was to become a Superior Court judge) characterized such services as a “racket” He said “the situation is debasing and degrading, as far as the judiciary is concerned.”
Violation of the Penal Code section is a misdemeanor.
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