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Attorney General wants 'Sister Wives' lawsuit thrown out

By Dennis Romboy | Posted - Sep. 6, 2011 at 5:06 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wants a federal judge to dismiss a polygamous family's lawsuit challenging the state's bigamy law, contending the stars of "Sister Wives" lack standing to do so.

Kody Brown and his four wives have failed to show that their constitutional rights were violated as a result of the statute, according a motion filed in U.S. District Court.

"The Brown family is hardly the only polygamist family in Utah," the 15-page memorandum says, noting there are about 30,000 polygamists in the state. "There are not 30,000 cases currently being prosecuted in Utah — there is not even one."


Filing charges now might actually weaken the state's defense because it could lend credence to the Brown's contention that the bigamy law has limited their rights.

Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman has threatened to file charges against the Browns since their television reality show "Sister Wives" debuted last September. And their lawyer, Jonathan Turley, said that alone is enough to put the family in a position to sue the state over the bigamy law.

In filing the suit against the state and county last month, Turley said the Browns, who moved to Nevada in January, are not demanding recognition of their polygamous marriage.

"We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs," he said in July.

In a declaration filed along with the attorney general's motion, Buhman wrote the he has not "publicly stated" whether he will prosecute, an indication that perhaps he has made up his mind.

Filing charges now might actually weaken the state's defense because it could lend credence to the Brown's contention that the bigamy law has limited their rights.

State lawyers argue in the memorandum that the Browns have not shown even a "credible threat" of prosecution because the attorney general's office does not go after polygamists unless it suspect other crimes such as child abuse. Although Utah County does not have such a policy, its track record "belies any likely prosecution."


Court documents say the Browns were open about their polygamous lifestyle before their reality show aired and were well known to both state and county officials.

Court documents say the Browns were open about their polygamous lifestyle before their reality show aired and were well known to both state and county officials.

"Now, however, plaintiffs claims that because they became the subject of 'Sister Wives' and the Lehi City police reported that to the Utah County Attorney's Office that they are now somehow the target of prosecution," the memorandum states.

Buhman's declaration said little was revealed in the police report that was not made public in the TV show's first episode last September.

The second season of "Sister Wives" is set to begin later this month on TLC. The program chronicles the lives of Kody Brown and his wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn and their 16 (soon to be 17) children.

Email:dromboy@ksl.com

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