Great news if you want Senior U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield presiding over your nuptials -- and who wouldn’t? He officially has the blessing of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to perform marriage ceremonies, according to a Dec. 10 opinion from the AG.
Heartfield needed clarification on the wedding issue, after a June 4 AG opinion found that Family Code §2.202(a)(4) does not authorize a retired federal judge to conduct a marriage ceremony in Texas. The Bowie County criminal district attorney had sent in that request for an opinion on behalf of retired U.S. District Judge David Folsom, who, out of “an abundance of caution,” had refrained from presiding over his wife’s goddaughter’s wedding after leaving the bench.
So Heartfield of Beaumont had Jefferson County Criminal District Attorney Tom Maness on Aug. 30 send the AG an opinion request on Heartfield’s behalf, seeking to clarify whether senior federal judges can perform weddings, should anyone ask them to do so.
Abbott’s most recent opinion clarifies that it’s OK for a senior U.S. district judge to perform weddings.
“Both federal law and long-standing federal judicial authority confirm that a senior status federal judge meeting the requirements of 28 U.S.C.A. §371 continues to be a ‘judge or magistrate or a federal court of this state” and is therefore authorized by subsection 2.202(a)(4) of the Family Code to conduct marriage ceremonies in Texas,” the opinion states.
Heartfield did not return a call seeking comment.
— John Council