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February 8, 2012

Sentencing for lovers: Florida judge orders date night with flowers, seafood dinner, bowling instead of jail

Heart bookThanks to Joe Palazzolo and this post at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, I learned about a remarkable (and appealing story) out of Florida involving a creating sentencing.  This local article, headlined "Flowers, dinner, bowling -- and counseling -- ordered by Broward judge in domestic case," provides the details:

A marital spat that began when a Plantation man didn’t wish his wife a happy birthday and then escalated into a domestic violence charge, resulted in an unusual bond court ruling by a perceptive judge.   Instead of setting bond or keeping Joseph Bray locked up, he ordered him to treat his spouse to dinner, a bowling date and then to undergo marriage counseling.

“He’s going to stop by somewhere and he’s going to get some flowers,” Judge John “Jay” Hurley said during the first appearance hearing. “And then he’s going to go home, pick up his wife, get dressed, take her to Red Lobster. And then after they have Red Lobster, they’re going to go bowling.”

Hurley emphasized that he would not have ordered such whimsical conditions for Bray, 47, if his domestic violence charge was more serious, or if his wife appeared to be injured or in danger of being harmed. “It was a minor incident, in the court’s opinion,” he said. “The court would not normally do that if the court felt there was some violence but this is very, very minor and the court felt that that was a better resolution than other alternatives.”...

A woman who identified herself as Bray’s wife attended the hearing and explained that the couple’s argument started on Monday after her husband didn’t acknowledge her birthday. Hurley asked her is she was hurt or in any fear of her husband. After she said she wasn’t, and Hurley confirmed that Bray had no prior arrests, the judge continued his questioning with a lighter tone.

“Do you have something you like to go to?” he asked. “Is there a restaurant you like to go to?” The woman answered that she enjoyed bowling and eating at Red Lobster. And so the judge made his decision accordingly. “Flowers, birthday card, Red Lobster, bowling,” Hurley said. He also ordered that the couple begin seeing a marriage counselor within a week.

Everyone must watch the linked video of the proceedings (available here) before commenting or coming to judgment on this matter.  Watching that video makes obvious why the judge is described as "perceptive" in the local news account and provides a good example of why I am often a fan of creative sentencing.  That said, I have a feeling there will be somebody (perhaps a reader of this blog or some public policy group) that will not be entirely pleased with how this matter was adjudicated.  Still, with Valentine's Day only days away, I cannot help but have a warm feeling about this sentencing story.

UPDATE:  A reader in the comments has rightly noted that this proceeding was a bond hearing, not a sentencing.  That importance technicality does not diminish my appreciation and affinity for judges who creatively pursue alternatives to incarceration in the right settings.

February 8, 2012 at 06:37 PM | Permalink


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Sentenced to dinner at Red Lobster. I know some who would rather "do the time".

Posted by: mjs | Feb 8, 2012 7:33:07 PM

Bray is now disabled from owning/possessing a firearm.

Posted by: ? | Feb 8, 2012 9:22:54 PM

Sorry to quibble, Professor, but it wasn't a sentencing; it was a bond hearing.

Posted by: aba | Feb 8, 2012 9:51:43 PM

I had a Judge tell me "I wish I could sentence your client to having a girlfriend". The point that he was making was fairly good if poorly expressed. If the client was in a relationship he would not have been doing graffitti and generally being an attention seeking nuisance.

Posted by: Bill Doogue | Feb 8, 2012 9:53:52 PM

You are correct, aba, and I have updated the post for accuracy.

Posted by: Doug B.. | Feb 9, 2012 8:40:31 AM

Prof. Markel? Speak up. What's your view here?

Posted by: Def. Atty. | Feb 9, 2012 11:00:06 AM

I think something like that makes sense but I'm not totally comfortable with it being televised so the whole country is able to see the thing.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 9, 2012 11:00:37 AM

Red Lobster and bowling qualifies as romantic? Really?

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Feb 9, 2012 11:39:56 AM

Every now and again Erika nails it, and this is one of them.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 9, 2012 12:45:36 PM

Awfully elitist of Bill, Erika and mjs (their mockery of Red Lobster and bowling).

Posted by: common man | Feb 9, 2012 2:46:42 PM

common man, nothing elitst about it. the most important factor for a romantic dinner is to pick a romantic atmosphere. Gigantic chain "family" restraunts located in suburban sprawl areas where you might be sitting next to a table full of screaming children do not qualify :)

As for bowling - I once lived in an awful small town which contained a fascinating sociological experiment disguised as a bowling alley/bar. I wouldn't say that it attracted a "bad crowd," but rather than having a sign which says "Must be 21 or Older with ID to Enter" they had a sign which says "Must have Three or More Felony Convictions with Rap Sheet to Enter."

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Feb 9, 2012 4:18:00 PM

What? Do they really have to order the couples on what to do? Dating couples are matured enough on their thinking and they know already what to do to make the other partner satisfied.

Posted by: Ashley Velazquez | Nov 12, 2012 6:11:40 PM

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