Sister Wives Case Goes Back To Court Today

I am in Salt Lake City today for the hearing on the government’s second motion to dismiss the challenge to the state’s bigamy law by the Brown family — the cast of TLC’s Sister Wives program. As always in dealing with my own cases, I have to be circumspect in any public comments on the case. [Update: The court has promised a decision soon on whether it will proceed to rule on the constitutionality of the state law]

Recently, the prosecutors filed a declaration promising that they would not prosecute the Brown family and, on that basis, sought a dismissal on the grounds of mootness. We opposed that motion with the filing below.

We remain committed to the case and strongly believe that dismissal of the case at this late juncture would not be warranted. The parties were set for final arguments of summary judgment — and a long-awaited ruling on the constitutionality of this law — when the prosecutors filed their second Motion to Dismiss. While we maintain that this law is facially unconstitutional, the government insists that it is both lawful and enforceable. We believe that the Browns and the public at large should have an answer on this important question.

Jonathan Turley

Here is a statement from the Brown Family today:

“The family is obviously following developments in Salt Lake City closely today as the court considers the Motion to Dismiss filed by the prosecutors who do not want the Court to rule on the merits of our case. We remain committed and hopeful in the litigation. We feel strongly that this law is unconstitutional and that the people of Utah should have a final decision on that question. While we continue our close ties to Utah, we have remained in Nevada in the best interest of our children and family. One of the factors weighing heavily on our decision has been the continued insistence of officials that this law is constitutional and that plural families are presumptive felons. As we have stated before, Nevada has offered our family a wonderful and welcoming environment, which is deeply appreciated. We remain deeply thankful for the hard work of Professor Jonathan Turley and our local counsel Adam Alba and the team of students at George Washington University Law School. We remain committed to this case wherever it may lead in seeking to affirm the rights of plural families in Utah.”


22 thoughts on “Sister Wives Case Goes Back To Court Today”

  1. As if we needed any, here is further proof that Prof. Turley is a bada#$. While I disagree with many things on this forum, I’ve always enjoyed and came back to this blog because the more fundamental issues are always in agreement with my own views. Good luck, Prof!

  2. Thank you all for your kind words. And I appreciate the inclusiveness You all are welcome to the store, Tumwater Liquor & Wine just outside of Olympia, WA for your “spiritual” needs.

    In my view the judge’s somewhat rhetorical question “Why shouldn’t the court believe this is a ruse to avoid having the issue reviewed?” essentially is telegraphing the outcome.

    Moreover, why would anyone believe the sustainability of the promise not to prosucute. A change of heart, wild hair, or newly elected prosecutor will start this anew.

    One could also comment that a prosecutor would not be doing his/her duty by declaring which laws they will not enforce. Prosecutors are not the legislature of the state. I know there needs to be a certain amount of discretion on a case by case basis but to also say certain individuals are to be exempt / immune from prosecution on a continual violation while others are subject to the law harks of patronage.

    Many praises to our professor and his legal team. Hopefully these folks can just live in peace and therefrom others who want the liberty to marry who they choose can so as well.

  3. The doctrine of Mootness would apply if the state could not prosecute any of the defendants, or other family members, in the future. The essence of the prosecutor’s case is against the notion of “extended” family so they have put all family members at jeopardy when they prosecute just one guy named JoeBob. The collateral damage to JoeBob’s son has already been initiated. Dad has been accused of some crime which resulted in sonnyboy’s birth and the prosecution impunes his existence. This is not collateral in the normal sense, it is direct. The statute must be struck down to undo the damage to all family members. Send the Judge a case of Five Wives Vodka and clear things up.

  4. Darren,

    As pleased as I am with the outcome of your “Adventures In Marketing”, I am even more pleased to see you back to the land of the posting and on the mend. Welcome back.

  5. Mike Appleton 1, July 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I found some coverage of what went on during the hearing:

    During a hearing Wednesday in federal court in Salt Lake City, a judge repeatedly asked state prosecutors why he shouldn’t allow the case to move forward.

    U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups said it appeared as if the state policy and the ensuing declaration by Utah County was “simply a ruse to avoid having the issue reviewed.”

    “What’s the policy reason behind this … that would give assurances that similar prosecutions will not be pursued in the future?” Waddoups asked. “What about the next couple?”


  6. It appears to me that counsel for the State of Utah took advantage of the usual and customary professional courtesies lawyers routinely extend to other lawyers in this business. From my reading of the memo in opposition, I gather that defense counsel ignored the request for an explanation of the need for an additional extension because they didn’t want to disclose it. Had there not been a stipulation to the second extension, defense counsel would have had to file a motion with the Court, and explain that additional time was needed in order to properly formulate their mootness strategy, not a particularly convincing ground for seeking more time to respond.

    Utah desperately wishes to avoid a determination on the merits, but the memo in opposition thoroughly trashes the State’s standing argument. My prediction is that the motion will be denied. Besides, you’re only supposed to get one motion to dismiss.

    P.S.: Good to see you up and around, Darren.

  7. Darren, welcome back! It’s good to hear your surgery went well and here’s hoping you sell a lot of Five Wives. Drinking it also is a pain killer I’m told (if any lingers after th surgery) at least until the next morning 🙂

  8. Welcome back…….

    I hope the professor obtains the Judgement to end this foolishness of the government interference in personal relationships……

  9. if the right wants biblical marriage, this is what it is. Unfortunately wives that come after the first were slaves in the bible.

  10. Darren Smith,

    Glad to know surgery was a success … and the advertising campaign. I’m going to stick with Ketel One.

  11. I’m back. The surgery went decently and I have more use of my hands now. First and foremost it meant a lot to me to read your well wishes Gene, Mark, Mike, Betty, Professor Turley, and others. I appreciate it, thank you.

    In the mean time things went pretty well all considered. I would also like to mention since it was a topic here in the forum that I ordered a shipment of Five Wives Vodka for my liquor store and it is selling very well. We were the first in Washington to offer it. As promised I am using Idaho’s censorship as a marketing tool and it is working. More tax revenue for Washingtonians. More embarassment for the gov’t of Idaho.

    Anyway on to business at hand. It seems in this case as often is the gov’t decides to back out of it to forestall the citizen from having standing to carry on their case, fearing them winning and setting a precident they do not like. Doing so is just another example of justice denied. It is unfortunate in our country that someone has to suffer arrest or economic damage to have standing to challenge the consitutionality of a law. Why should a person have to suffer damage when the general oppression experienced by being forced to obey they law is in itself damaging but is ignored by the courts?

    1. I am back from court. I was encouraged by the hearing and felt that the court gave us a full and fair hearing. We will now wait for the decision. I saw that Darren is back in the fold. Welcome back Darren. We were all thinking of you and wishing you the best for your surgery. As one of the chosen few of this blog, we cannot afford to lose anyone of your caliber and clearly discerning tastes. I will have to come by your store to replenish on Five Wives Vodka. We have used up our reserve. It is really quite good.

      I will be in Salt Lake city until the morning — just before a heat wave hits the city. I have said it before, but I truly love this city. Folks here are extremely friendly, the city is clean, and the mountains are gorgeous. I hate to leave, but I miss the family.

      I am staying at the Hotel Monaco and, even with the construction, I have to say it is a great chain. Unlike too many high-end hotels, the Monaco seems to struggle to extend courtesies as part of the cost, including (as you know my pet peeve) free wifi.

      Welcome back again Darren!

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