Federal Court Set To Hear Final Arguments In Sister Wives Case

On Thursday, the federal court in Salt Lake City is set to hear final arguments in the Sister Wives case. The hearing on the motions for summary judgment will be heard on Thursday, January 17th at the federal courthouse in Room 102 before Judge Clark Waddoups. The Brown family has challenged Utah Code Ann. § 76-7-101 (West 2010) under seven constitutional claims, including due process, equal protection, free speech, free association, free exercise, the establishment of religion, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As lead counsel, I am limited in what I can say about the case publicly beyond the statement below.

On behalf of the legal team (including our local counsel Adam Alba and our team of Geoff Turley, Matthew Radler and Gina D’Andrea), I want to express our gratitude to the court in bringing this case to the final argument of the merits. It has been an honor to argue this civil rights case on behalf of the Brown family and, by extension, the tens of thousands of other plural families in this state. They are seeking what most families take for granted: the ability to structure their families and their lives according to their own values and beliefs. The state has acknowledged that this family has neither committed any crime nor sought multiple marriage licenses. They have been declared to be felons under state law simply because they choose to live as one family. The Browns have not questioned the right of the state to limit its recognition of marriage and to prosecute those citizens who secure multiple marriage licenses from the state. Rather they are challenging the right of the state to declare either cohabitation or plural relationships between consenting adults to be a felony. We remain hopeful about the outcome of these trial proceedings and remain committed to continue this work on behalf of the Brown family and thousands of other families seeking to live according to their own values.

Jonathan Turley, Lead counsel for the Brown family

Kody Brown has made the following statement on behalf of the Brown family:

“On behalf of the entire Brown family, I want to thank Judge Waddoups for this opportunity to argue the merits of our case. We understand that this is a historic moment for all plural families and we are honored and humbled to serve as the plaintiffs in this action. We are especially grateful for the support of our counsel, Professor Jonathan Turley, Adam Alba, the students at George Washington University, and the many supporters who have stood by us over the course of this litigation. This has been a difficult road for us and we are relieved to see the case coming to the final arguments. We remained committed to this civil rights cause and the struggle of plural families, both religious and non-religious, in the state. We hope that Utahans can understand that our family – like tens of thousands in this state – are seeking only to be allowed to live according to our beliefs and not be declared felons simply because we are different.”

Here is the last filing in the case: Brown.Opposition.Summary Judgment.FinalMaster

45 thoughts on “Federal Court Set To Hear Final Arguments In Sister Wives Case”

  1. The courts are religious. Religious people worked to get Jesus arrested. Don’t people know scripture? The servant of the high priest is the one that had his ear cut off in Gethsemane. He was there because the high priest told him to be there.

  2. (Marriage the described fundamental “Right” is not a positive liberty right such as Race.)

    should of been “Negative Liberty” my error

  3. I would love to see the Feng Shui arrangement of the bunk beds surrounding the main bed.

  4. This is still on going? I thought this went to court forever ago. I’m not sure if I have a problem with it but it doesn’t feel right all the same.

  5. Marriage the described fundamental “Right” is not a positive liberty right such as Race. That being regulations and restrictions that can be reasonable taken as rational can be imposed upon the definition of marriage.
    The predominate rational qualifier is “One Man One Woman” coupled with implied Monogamy “in a life long union.” The former forbids plurality and the latter regulates fidelity.

  6. I’ve still got mixed feelings about this case. I used to be of the school of thought that polygamy was a bad idea for several reasons, but that it should be allowed on free exercise grounds and as a contractual matter as marriage is essentially a contract as a form of promise that comes with both benefits and obligations. However, Elaine (with the assistance of either Blouise or Smom, maybe both) made a pretty good case for their being some fairly hefty sociological problems the practice creates that changed my mind about it. While I wish success in the courtroom for the home team, I’m thinking all wins are not created equal.

  7. State has no compelling reason to make criminal the “committed” relationship of ‘Three’ while at the same time holding as honourable the identical “Committed” relationship of ‘two’.

  8. Should the clients be there? Or not be there? A nice guy seated there with five nice homely mormon women who are not sisters might all present well. Then it is not an abstraction. While you are at it court watchers, see if the judges have their eyes on any of the court clerks. Often there is some hanky panky going on in federal courthouses. Let em know that you approve. If the judge’s spouse is there in the audience you know that the ship is sunk– there is not going to be a right of privacy considered. The spouse is probably eyeing the judge eyeing the cute clerk and will get bi polar about the sister wives thing when they get home and he starts writing the opinion. The women judges will have a different point of view and will view the women wives, whether sisters or not, as chumps. Now, if they were hookers they would not be viewed as chumps. The male part of the equation, all things being equal, might be seen then as a chump for paying for something that should be free. Then, if you argue the free sex thing too long you might aggravate the hookers and that argument will get back to the judge if the judge is doing any hookers. So, it is a complicated case.

    I would argue that it is none of the business of the state of Utah to inquire what happens behind closed doors of a private home. It is not a cathouse. None dare call it a doghouse. Or treason.

  9. That spulling error above: its Ninth Amendment. These guys should be Taking The Ninth. Not the Fifth. Even if the number of wives is five.

  10. The state’s position, if one cares to cast it as such, goes against the grain of the life style of the wild west, which is sumarized as: pork em if ya gottem.
    The State of Utah is in essense trying to outlaw practices which the Mormons brought to Utah to evade prosecution for in other holier than thou states. So now Utah is trying to demonstrate that it is more holier than y’all.

    On a constitutional basis I would stick with, if you have pleaded it, the Nitnh Amendment. I would not characterize the right so much as right of privacy but as a right to be let alone where the state has no perogative to tell me how to live. “States Rights” on the other hand, has no place in the constitutional framework. People have rights. States have powers. States have no powers to intrude on people’s rights unless specifically so empowered by a provision of the constitution. Usually the States Rights mantra is heard when some mob has lynched a guy in Alabama and the federal government attempts to intercede in some fashion, for example with a federal police force or perhaps a criminal prosecution against the lynchers. In this case we will not hear States Rights! with an exclamation point. It will be a more subtle argument. Boiled down, who is hurt here when a guy lives with five women, is not married to any of them, or perphaps is married to one, and is porking all of them on separate occasions. This does not lead to a separate but equal argument. And, it is all not in one bed at one time with the kids watching.

    Some of the judges who are hearing this case have probably cheated on their spouses. They should not be too sanctimonious to the facts of this case.

  11. This is nothing more than another cult to satisfy some horny old goat but if they want to live like that then leave them alone as long as they do no harm to those who do not believe as they do.

  12. I think the Mormon Church probably has a strong hand in the law. One of the many knocks against the group has been polygamy. In an effort to reduce that avenue of attack the State stepped in and outlawed it while some number of believers still cling to it.

    I think the age of consent and that the partners involved are all capable of freely consenting as the dividing line. But there is a whole big ol can of worms waiting on the other side around divorce, inheritance, social security. That could be a full employment act for lawyers for a generation

  13. Interesting case. You are going up against the founding fathers’ Judeo-Christian belief of family values. If the state loses, be ready for either an appeal, legal retaliation (and this can come in many forms, i.e. a new charge\case filed against your clients), or a new state law, making it impossible for them to be ‘together’. As a Christian, I see it as a sin, and therefore, hope that they are not allowed to continue in this perversion. However, I don’t want to legally start telling people how to live their lives based upon what I believe.

  14. It is intersting that the state is prosecuting people who are not married in the interests of protecting the institution of marriage.
    The core of the argument seems to be that these people are acting as if they were married – even if it is quite clear that they are not claiming to be legally married.

    If the state has an interest in protecting the instituion of marriage, they should logically prosecute married people who have sexual and/or emotional relationships outside of that marriage. It seems to me that such activity can be very damaging to the marriage, the partner and children.

    If the state is concerned with arrangements that are “rife with the physical and sexual abuse of women and children”, then I think it should take a long hard look at ‘normal’ marriages for that reason.
    I would be shocked to discover that that state were any less concerned about “physical and sexual abuse of women and children” where this took place within a ‘normal’ marriage.

    Surely Shirley, the problem is the abuse, and not the domestic arrangements in which it *might* take place.

  15. Utah is so allergic to the idea of polygamy, they go totally overboard and say that people can’t even live together the way they want.
    The state’s only claim to control here is the issuance of marriage licenses. If persons or a family simply doesn’t want to play their game, and eschews the whole licensing of marriage, then really is a reach to tell people that they can’t live together and have sex with whomever they want to.
    This is a real civil libertarian issue, in many way related to the gay revolution. Gay people simply voluntarily associated with others they way they wanted, and that behavior was held immune from state control.
    The similar behavior of consenting heterosexual people should likewise be beyond the power of the state to control.

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