Brown Family Asks Entire Tenth Circuit To Review Sister Wives Decision

240px-sister_wives_tv_series_logoLate Monday, the Brown family filed their appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Brown v. Buhman, No. 14-4117. The Sisters Wives case raises core issues of free speech and free exercise — constitutional violations found by the trial court in striking down the Utah cohabitation law. This “en banc” petition is to the entire Tenth Circuit in seeking review of the recent panel decision vacating the earlier decision on standing grounds.

The petition below raises conflicts in controlling case law and the panel decision on the standard for mootness in pre-enforcement cases. The petition also challenges the panel’s rejections of factual findings made by the trial court, including facts that were not contested by the state.

While we remain hopeful of a review of the entire court, we stand committed to continuing this long fight for free speech and the free exercise of religion. As we have previously maintained, these rights too great to abandon after prevailing below in this case. Moreover, this appeal fights for the right for plural families to be heard in federal court, a right sharply curtailed by this decision.

The filing below states:

The panel ruling is chilling in its implications for families abused by unconstitutional laws and actions. It means that a family can be targeted by a prosecutor for years and publicly denounced as felons under state law for their consensual private relationships. The family can suffer professional and social injuries that are not contested by the defendant. The family can relocate across the border to escape such harassment and targeting while maintaining their Utah home and their religious and family commitments in Utah. Yet, according to the panel, none of those injuries warrant a review of the merits of their claims in a federal court. To use standing law to extinguish such constitutional claims (including at least one major violation already conceded by the defendant) is to decouple the doctrine from its original purposes in our system. This is particularly the case where core free amendment rights have been abridged and a prosecutor has expressly maintains the law is both constitutional and essential for future investigations. If the panel decision stands, this Circuit will become a minority jurisdiction of one and will insulate knowing, unconstitutional acts from judicial review.

If the court declines to rehear the case, the Browns are committed to pursuing the case to the Supreme Court. However, we believe that the Tenth Circuit should consider the important issues in this case as a whole before any further appeal is taken.

I want to thank our local counsel Adam Alba as well as Thomas Huff for their excellent work on the petition.

Jonathan Turley
Lead Counsel for the Brown Family

Here is the filing: Brown.Rehearing.Brief.Master.Final

16 thoughts on “Brown Family Asks Entire Tenth Circuit To Review Sister Wives Decision”

  1. This is the U.S. OF America, and I believe in “Freedom of Religion.” Leave the Brown family alone!! Now, on the other hand, if the Browns are looking for more $$$, then I think pursuing is wrong. Otherwise, I’m in their corner!! Best of luck!!

  2. Reading your recent appeal to the 10th circuit panel, and on page 11, (don’t know if this matters, or if you have time to correct it if it does matter) first paragraph, “The Brown
    family fled to Utah to avoid further threats…” I think it should say they fled Utah, or fled to Nevada, not that they fled TO Utah. Just wanted to make sure you saw that, since they seem to be grabbing at straws to get rid of your case.
    Your work on this case has been wonderful. Thank you for helping that family stand up to the state, and all others who commit abuses against them and their friends, using their hatred of a lifestyle as an excuse.

  3. @carolleigh @tin

    I suspect that none of the kids are on welfare or SNAP. Estimates I’ve seen say they get around $50k per episode.

  4. So one wife files married jointly and bring in “six” exemptions or whatever the limit. One files head of hhld. The rest file married file separately single….what does the family want? Just not to be prosecuted for bigomy? If there is already a deal they won’t be prosecuted then really they are seeking more…as in condoning not merely tolerating. O.

  5. As with any constitutional right, Congress and local/state legislatures can define and clarify those constitutional rights into statutes (ex: what is a violation of law and what is the range of penalties for each violation). As a general rule a person’s exercise of constitutional rights can’t infringe on another citizen’s constitutional rights – including children and wives.

    So even if this case were ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court – Congress or a local/state legislature can still regulate, through statute, that constitutional right so it doesn’t harm the children or other people – as long as it follows the letter & sprit of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

    For example: The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act define the 14th Amendment and other constitutional rights – spelling out what a violation is and the range of penalties for each violation.

  6. @carolleigh

    His “religion” only demands that he have five “wives.” Not surprisingly, it doesn’t require that he support the resulting 30 offspring. That’s the taxpayers’ problem. When “religion” is just another word for narcissism, this is what you get.

  7. It’s very curious how “conservatives” brag about small government and individual freedoms but don’t respect other people’s religious freedom or freedoms among consenting adults.

    It’s the very same “conservatives” that embraced an Orwellian nanny-state after 9/11 where government agencies can create dossiers on every American in violation of our 4th Amendment rights.

    It explains the current state of the Republican Party dominated by theocrats, not real conservatives.

  8. I would like to know how many children have been produced. And how many are on welfare and food stamps just so this man can “relieve himself.” Every night with a different woman.

    1. Very good question….because I have also felt that way about him and any other man who believes in plural marriage. Standing behind God so they can selfishly have sex with more than one woman…then produce all these children who most of these big families can not afford

  9. The entire U.S. Justice system is a joke, from Guantanamo to civil asset forfeiture (without conviction) to CoinTelPro blacklisting programs.

    Why do we have courts and judges at all if they are subordinate to the political branches? Americans have lost total faith in government at all levels.

  10. To Oldpoet: Yes. Come here with one wife. Leave the others in the muddle east. I do have some sympathy for Mormon men who marry several women. I read Mark Twain’s description in the book he wrote about traveling out in the American West. The book is called Roughing It. In terms of standing we have not heard much on the blog about why the Tenth Circuit found that there was no “standing to sue”. Were the plaintiffs not personally affected by some direct action by the defendant?

  11. If a Arab man moves to the U.S. from his Middle-East home and he has 4 wives, what then, does he have to divorce 3 of them?

  12. Chinggis say good luck. Hope result better than Black Hawks against Blues. Tenth Circuit understands no standing when in penalty box. Only sitting. Maybe they think clients have no standing because clients in penalty box. Should be no penalty for icing, especially icing on lots of wedding cakes.

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