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