Federal Court Rules Sister Wives Case Can Go Forward

Despite widespread predictions to the contrary, a federal court in Salt Lake City has ruled that the Sister Wives challenge of the statute anti-polygamy law can go forward and denied the effort to dismiss the lawsuit. The long and detailed ruling of United States District Court Judge Clark Waddoups agreed with our arguments that we have standing to challenge the state law. The standing question has long been discussed as the most significant barrier for the family in seeking a ruling on the merits. Prior such challenges have been denied at the standing stage.

Judge Waddoups wrote:

“The entirety of actions by the Utah County prosecutors tend to show either an ill-conceived public-relations campaign to showboat their own authority and/or harass the Browns and the polygamist community at large, or to assure the public that they intended to carry out their public obligations and prosecute violations of the law. Without any evidence to the contrary, the court assumes that these are consummate professionals making announcements of criminal investigations to apprise the public that they are doing their duty and seeking to enforce the law.”

The court did grant dismissal of the state governor and attorney general as parties because the Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman is the relevant government official for the purposes of the challenge. We sued all three officials, but the dismissal of the two other parties will not affect the arguments in the case.

Since I am lead counsel in the case, I must remain somewhat circumspect in what I can say publicly. I have informed the Brown family of the decision. They are both deeply thankful to the Court and appreciative of the opportunity to present their case against this statute. The state has long insisted that this law is constitutional and that it may criminalize consensual private conduct between adults. It will now have the opportunity to make that case to the Court. We remain confident that this law cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny and we are eager to reach merits in the case.

I also want to recognize and thank our esteemed local counsel (and my former student) in this case, Adam Alba.

Here is the decision: Memorandum & Order-Sister Wives

Here is the complaint filed in the case: Brown Complaint

47 thoughts on “Federal Court Rules Sister Wives Case Can Go Forward”

  1. Although I am not in a polygamist marriage or Mormon.. I have always thought (long before sister wives) that stopping plural marriage was designed by man to avoid the headaches of many women..
    Also as all things, man takes things to the extreme.. hence the issues with incest and underage wives not actually consenting…
    I do think that Sister Wives have shown the more normal side of this denomination it has also exposed the family and especially the children to the spotlight that I am sure they never thought would be this strong… With the income this show has generated.. some one needs to step up and give this family a very large estate or maybe two large houses.. with the economy in vegas lacking two short sales seems like a great option
    Leaving Utah was horrendous for the children.. the adults had choices.. but not sure which way I would have decided on going public..
    My heart and support go to this family and others that are attempting to practice their faith as they see fit.

  2. I am glad to hear of this victory, and I hope for more and bigger ones in the future. I see nothing wrong with their life style, and I feel that the fact that thy had to leave their home has caused them undue hardship and emotional harm. Best wishes to this family.

  3. You’re all worried about statehood…..Utah’s not going to lose its statehood!

    They aren’t asking for legal polygamy….just that it’s decriminalized!

    Meaning….Plural marriages will be like gay marriage is in most states….not legal, but not prosecuted.

    There are lots of dad’s in the country with children by multiple women…..but magically that becomes illegal when they all live in one home?

    In Utah, when a man lives with 2 or more women its a crime…..just cohabitation with multiple women can cause charges to be pressed against the man for bigamy.

    Especially here in Utah, Polygamy is a part of religious beliefs. Its wrong for us to have to feel repressed or hide away because of our faith. But even for others who just chose it as a lifestyle or feel “its just who they are”, should have the same or equal rights of those who live in homosexual marriages.

    Good Luck! This means a lot to very large amount of people!

  4. Hey…..Dredd….some may say that this is her God driven right….But in the real respect for her….she screws politicians equally…..Especially…those that are for individual rights as well as DADT…..

    Not bad for a woman that worked for Spence Abraham……The question I have for her…is she still lying about her age?

  5. Anonymously Yours 1, February 5, 2012 at 9:14 am


    Here ya go…..

    White V Texas…..

    Texas differentiated between those acts of … anarchy …
    Why bring up Ann Coulter’s marriages? 😉

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