Representation in “Sister Wives” Case

As has been the practice on this blog, I wanted to disclose my representation of the Brown family, who are the subjects of the new series “Sister Wives” on TLC. As in the past, any comments on the case by me will be limited. However, various people have suggested the reported criminal investigation as a subject for this blog and I wanted to explain why I have not posted anything on the controversy.

Bigamy is a third-degree felony under Utah law punishable with up to five years in jail. Prior prosecutions for polygamy have involved allegations of child abuse or child brides, which are clearly not present in this case. The use of this statute to prosecute the Browns would be in my view unconstitutional. It would also end a long-standing policy to confine prosecutions to those who abuse children or commit such crimes as fraud. We are confident that the authorities will find no such criminal conduct in this case and we intend to cooperate to the fullest in resolving any such questions from the State. I hope that the prosecutors will recognize that this would be bad criminal case making bad criminal law. It is, after all, a television show and there is no need to move the matter from the television guide to the criminal docket.

My representation as lead counsel for Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown will obviously curtail my discussion of the case on this blog but, as in earlier cases, I will not interfere with the discussion of others on this blog.

Jonathan Turley

430 thoughts on “Representation in “Sister Wives” Case

  1. “Call me old fashioned if you will, but young children need to be with their mother”

    Actually this is a new concept. 100 years ago, if a woman wanted to walk, she had to leave her children behind. They were considered the property of the husband.

  2. @ Chris

    I think you are confusing the two concepts, as the (misogyinist) law stood, women were also property of their husbands, as were the children (all children claimed by him as his anyway) however, that does not mean that they did not believe that children need their mothers, in fact it was a ploy often used to compel women to stay in relationships which were bad for them.

    It took a really desperate woman to leave her children behind and in that way the law favoured the men, there was nothing in law which said ‘children need their fathers’ rather the law was ‘children are the property of their fathers’.

    As I said, women’s social history is a favoured topic of mine.

  3. I’m a mainstream Mormon and have alway been taught to shun even the appearance of condoning the polygamous lifestyle at all costs. I grew up in Oregon but now I live in the same Utah valley as the participants in this show. I’m an involuntarily-divorced father and over the past years I have come to reconsider the notion of polygamy, though I would never leave my church and will never do anything other than sympathize with many polygamous families. I now know polygamous families personally that are decent, down-to-earth, and loving families. The astounding fact everyone seems to miss is the caring, nurturing, and loving parenting that takes place with the children. This lifestyle is probably not for everyone, but if you think that this lifestyle is somehow deficient for the children involved, compared with neighbors and most families,who put their children in daycare for 10 hours a day, then you are simply deluded. No sober or sane perspective of these people, witnessing it first-hand, can come to this conclusion. The caveat here, of course, is that I’m talking about the non-criminal and/or non-abusive polygamous lifestyle. Everyone knows about the crazy and abusive polygamists, who operate and socio-pathologically thrive on the margins of a disenfranchised or outlawed culture–like so many other sociopaths who operate on so many different fringes of the marginalized populations of our societies. Because they can get away with so much on the un-monitored margins, sociopathic personalities will always be associated with such subcultures. However, you must look beyond the headlines and surface portrayals to understand a cultural choice such as this, just as you would for any alternative lifestyle.

    I offer this with the following perspective: I was the primary caregiver for my children before my wife left me and took our children. I fought court battles for two years just to be able to watch my children during the day instead of having them in daycare for more than 10 hours per day. I have never been anything but a loving and completely devoted father to my children, and I live in a state which calls itself a “family values” state. Yet I could not prove to the state in court (or not yet, Mr. Turley, in case you’re reading) that a loving and fit father (with no dispute on this characterization whatsoever) is entitled to care for his children over institutionalized daycare despite the “inconvenience” it causes their mother. Really. That is the reason. I’m not making that up. The judges words were that my daily father care causes “too much shuffling of the children.” I would add that I live less than two miles from their mother. And the daycare is seven miles away. And I had to pay for the daycare, by law, to boot, even as I sat in my home office and yearned and ached for my children in such a way as words cannot describe. That is how entrenched daycare parenting is in our society. Something is wrong in the current state of family law and the presumptions it holds based upon notions of equality for women.

    I studied feminist literary criticism in college; this is not feminism, and it never was imagined that real feminist notions of equality would ever lead us to this. Real feminism has been hijacked by bullies and entitlement-mongers and driven little girls away from their most important and essential of protectors–their fathers. I look forward to a progression that involves a truly equal partnering in the most fundamental and important work we have together between the sexes: parenting children. As I see it, the polygamists I know simply have a much healthier concept of this than anything currently in the “mainstream” society of family law or legal reasoning. I realize that many here will not like these words, but they are the truth.

  4. @ J. Wight

    That is probably the most powerful statement I have read to date with regard to the care of the children. This has been one of the most ignored arguments for polygamy, and likely the most important. Due to the exceptionally poor quality of public education I consider the public schools nothing more than extended public day care at taxpayer expense.

    I hope there will be testimony of this caliber at the hearings in Canada:

  5. My feelings on the Browns are that Kody and the wives work and support their family. They are not living off the government so there for the state should stay out of their personal life. Kody states he is only legaaly married to Meri so what law is he breaking. I myself would not in a million years live this lifestyle but they are all consenting adults free to live their life as they want to.
    I watched the whole season and will continue to watch them however long TLC will film. Good luck to the family.

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