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. A better wording of what I intended to say would be : ” I think more average looking women are just as likely to land a gorgeous man as their prettier sisters are than their prettier sisters would like to admit . ” Linda McCartney was vilified by girls who couldn’t believe the cutest Beatle would be attracted to a plain Jane .

    The sentence “Though ..” should read ” Though some people get married or become engaged without thinking about it in practical terms . ”

    The remarks by all the doggie writers are very compassinate for the odd cultural dynamic . Although these families think their lifestyles natural , the polygamist parents seem to me like very conservative hippies .

  2. I think many comments here miss the point here. This case will not change legal recognized marriage. It will simple allow people the freedom to live as they wish without government abuse. It should not be against the law to call the woman that you are with a wife instead of a girlfriend.

    Best wishes Prof. Turley and Brown family. I hope you strike a blow for freedom and the pursuit of happiness without undue government interference.

  3. Maybe the” nice ” ( that’s a horribly insipid adjective ) is spoken as a perjorative .because the nice husband brother doesnt even think the word homely when he is in his various bedrooms. I think most average looking women are more likely to land a gorgeous man (N.B actors . Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman ) than most people admit . To hide in a weird polygamist cult, whose homely wives have other issues than their facial imperfection is not emotionally honest. Though people get married for the wrong reasons, I feel sorry for the polygamist husband brother who seems to think as you do Barkin Dog has to placate his numerous loves with “you know I think you less homely than the others ” . Some men have a Infantile need to dominate , including the need to be Bert Parks every evening!

  4. BD,

    If I recall the government wanted to dismiss. If Federal Rules of Procedure are still the same, it takes the other party to agree. They said is essence that they would no longer prosecute thus case. If I recall further the Defense then file it’s dispositive motion to make what the prosecution said part of the laws of that circuit… In which they are binding unless overturned on appeal…

  5. The article sewed some confusion as to the proceedings taking place. The case is on for a Motion For Summary Judgment filed by one party or the other. The district court judge can decide the motion, or cross motion if there is one, and the case could be determined wholly or partially. Then it would go to the Court of Appeals for that Circuit Court of Appeals under which it falls into. So today wont be fhe Final argument or the last word on these sisters. Usually that term is employed for the final argument after a jury trial has been conducted and each side gets up and gives their spiel, also known as Closing Argument. When the case gets to the Court of Appeals for the ____ Circuit, it will draw a panel of three judges and perhaps the Court En Banc meaning the entire bench of that Circuit. So as many as six brothers and five sisters could end up hearing the case. Then a losing party may try to get the United States Supreme Court to hear the case. The Oral Argument there would be the “final” say on behalf of the five sisters.

    If this group sex case goes up on religious grounds, that poligamy ain’t bigamy because its Mormani, then things will get dicey and not necesssarily spicy. If the five wives look like the wives described by Mark Twain in Roughing It then perhaps the husband who shepards them into the courtroom will get some sympathy. They will get a more sympathetic ear if the evidence is that they have individual sexual encounters, if at all, rather than group sex. If some affidavits come into the hearing today as to the nature of the sex then that could get interesting. Since it is a Summary Judgment proceeding there will not be a trial with live testimony– only sworn testimony from depositions or statements under oath in the form of affidavits. After all is said and done there will likely be some swearing about this situation in Utah. All things would be simpler if they were just a band of hippies “doin their ting” Sometimes religiousity knows no bounds or in this case “outer limits”. Maybe five is the limit. Six wives might be considered “ostentatious” in those parts. This is Utah, not Vegas. And things that play in Utah dont stay in Utah. That is why this case has national attention. Had this happened in Vegas you would not have heard a peap. Unless you lived next door or on the floor below. Then, dog only knows what you would hear.
    Anyway, what is coming up in court is an oral argument on a Motion For Summary Judgment for which there has been no trial, just submission of motions and affidavits, depositions and exhibits. The judge did NOT get to hear from the five wives in person.
    Ok, nuff said. This dog has to go back to the dogpac and see what opportunities might arise in the way of dog sex. You humans are something else– five at once. Jeso.

  6. My question: If the Brown family wins its case (and assuming it isn’t appealed) does this mean a woman can then take multiple husbands? Or does the polygamous marriage have to have a religious basis? In which case, if I find written on one of my plates while washing the dishes one night instructions that women should marry more than one man, then that would be recognized? Just wondering….

  7. I think that each Prong of the First Amendment needs to be explored here for the plaintiffs in this case. Here is the text of the First Amendment:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

    First of all it is applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment. Civil rights delineated under the First and Fourtheenth (or any constitutional provision) are protected and can be sued under the Civil Rights Act or 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.

    Here if the five wives thing is an element of the plaintiffs’ religion or faith then here the state has passed a law respecting the establishment of its own religion to the detriment of plaikntiffs. They have the right to “free exercise thereof” of their own religion. Group sex is one aspect. Then, overlooked by the Turley comment above is the right of all six of them to peaceably assemble. Then there is the right to petition the Government for the redress of their grievances. i.e. the squelling in the night. The free exercise prong can have some funny yet relevant permutations here. Group sex is exercise and it needs to be freely done. Even if the five wives, group sex thing is not part of the plaintiffs’ religion, you might allege that the denial of same is part of the governments establishment of its own verison of Christianity.

    A basic tenant of my religion is pork em if ya gottem. But I think here the Mormon thing needs to be invoked. That plaintiffs are origiinalists in that they preach the gospel of the Mormon church when five wives was the norm. We are not talking Norm Lasky here.

    Get a photo of the judge coming out of the cathosue in Vegas, in the sister state of Nevada, and the plaintiffs are home free.

    And, that is this dog’s advice.

  8. As one who has a difficult time dealing with just one wife, I could not imagine five of them itchinBay and griping all at once. Mark Twain has a nice little tidbit about his observations of Mormon wives in his book Roughing It. He makes the husband look so kindly and charitable to take in five homely looking things. I wish that he was around to chimne in on this topic.

  9. Good luck, Prof. Turley. Would love to be able to hear oral argument on the motion.

  10. The only times I was in group sex with five woman I could not claim the Free Exercise Clause because I had to pay all five of them. Amsterdam, in my prior life as a human. But, I would like to explore the relevance of the Free Exercise Clause on this case. Someone explain its relevance.

  11. If, however, I marry a man who then marries four more women, each of whom marries two more men, one of whom marries a woman I really can’t stand, can I divorce her? If I do divorce her, do my husbands have to divorce ME? How will we all make sure we don’t get a judge who can’t do the math?

  12. Gene, I remember that discussion well. It was Elaine, Blouise and I versus somebody named Scarecrow. We all seem to avoid the polygamy threads. 🙂

  13. Gene H. 1, January 16, 2013 at 5:14 pm


    Or I say I’m a sun worshiper as stars are the ultimate engine of life.

    The lord star giveth and then the lord star taketh away … unless.

  14. I’m pleased the family has such a winning team on their side. Their living arrangements are none of the state’s business to say it succinctly.

    My only worry is that there will be an automatic appeal and drag this on for half a decade or more. But if the family is willing to endure this it would be a good precident to become the law of the entire land, that is all districts. If it goes well that is.

  15. Dredd,

    My objections to polygamy are not religiously based. As I said above, they are based on sociological problems that polygamy creates that I had been unaware of until Elaine et al. brought them to my attention. Before that, as I view marriage and its proper relationship to the state as a matter of contractual relationships and attendant rights and enforcements thereof, I was for polygamy even though I personally think it’s a bad idea.

    As far as my religious persuasion? If I had to nail it down, I’d say non-denominational anti-organizational with a bent philosophically toward Stoicism, Soft Rule Utilitarianism, Buddhism, Gnostic Christianity, Confucianism, Zen, the teachings of Rabbi Hillel and Taoism with a healthy dose of scientific realism/objectivism (not to be confused with Randian Objectivism) who vacillates between agnostic Deism and atheism but I do not identify with any one system as my beliefs are very syncretic. I usually just say “complicated” when asked the question. It’s much easier.

    Or I say I’m a sun worshiper as stars are the ultimate engine of life.

  16. Gene H. 1, January 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    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.
    I can’t remember your religious persuasion, or lack thereof.

    Nevertheless, I think polygamy is an offence to athiests because all those forefathers and biggie fries in the Bible tendend to be polygamists.

    For example, Abraham (Islam, Judiaism, and Christian father figure), Jacob (a.k.a. Israel), Solomon (very wise guy), and many others were polygamists.

    I haven’t yet figured out why polygamists who are religious zealots who love Abraham, Israel, and Solomon do not like their matrimonial preferences.

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