In a somewhat zippy, yet not unexpected twist, the State of Utah has decided to appeal the almost year old ruling decriminalizing polygamy.
One of many articles
For a clear, and deep read into the move by the State of Utah, Jonathan Turley's blog is it. He is the Brown family's lawyer and a professor. Eloquently written, this is the best description out there on the process.
One month ago, United States District Court Judge Clarke Waddoups handed down his final ruling in favor of my clients in the Sister Wives case. Utah Attorney General, Sean Reyes has now filed his notice of appeal in the case — a move that will take this historic case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver and potentially to the Supreme Court.
Previously, Judge Waddoups handed down an historic ruling striking down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional. Only one count remained: the Section 1983 claim that state officials (notably prosecutor Jeffrey R. Buhman) violated the constitutional rights of the Brown family in years of criminal investigation and public accusations. A month ago, he ruled in favor of the Brown family on that last count as well.
We are prepared to defend this and the prior ruling in Denver and I will be joined by our local counsel, Adam Alba (a former GW student) as well as our team of GW law students.
It is a rather curious position for the state of Utah in seeking to reverse one of the strongest defenses of religious liberty handed down in decades. This is a discretionary appeal and nothing compelled the state or Mr. Reyes to try to reverse the District Court of Utah. Mr. Reyes takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. The final judgment did precisely that.
After that decision, abuse of spouses and children will continue to be prosecuted regardless of whether they occur in monogamous or polygamous families. These protective services will only be strengthened now that many families can openly integrate into society and not fear prosecution merely because of their family structure. What remains of the statute was narrowly construed by the Court to limit future prosecutions to traditional bigamy, i.e. individuals with multiple marriage licenses. Neither the Attorney General nor the state of Utah should fight a ruling that reaffirmed freedom of religion and equal protection. Utah is a state that was founded by citizens seeking those very rights against government abuse. Utah is better place because of the courageous decision of Judge Waddoups and the commitment of the Brown family in defense of our Constitution. Now the state will seek to reverse that outcome and walk back to the long-troubled history surrounding this law.
The Browns remain entirely committed to fighting to preserve the protections of religion, speech, and privacy established in this case for their family as well as other citizens. As lead counsel, it will be a distinct honor to defend not just the Brown family but this historic decision by Judge Waddoups.