‘Sister Wives’ won’t seek money from Utah in polygamy lawsuit

Posted at 6:03 AM, Feb 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-11 08:03:46-05

SALT LAKE CITY — In a new court filing obtained by FOX 13, lawyers for reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives say they are not seeking money from a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on polygamy.

They would rather a federal judge uphold his decision striking down part of Utah’s anti-polygamy laws as unconstitutional, essentially decriminalizing plural marriage in the state.

“They believe strongly that the focus of the case should be on the Court’s historic ruling and not their insular losses associated with the criminal investigation and public comments of the Defendant,” the Brown family’s attorneys, Jonathan Turley and Adam Alba wrote. “To that end, they will not ask for repayment of their moving costs, loss of contracts, or other expenses detailed in the prior filings.”

The filing, submitted last month in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, is in response to a judge’s hearing to determine whether taxpayers owed Kody Brown and his wives — Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn — money. The polygamous family sued the state of Utah after they fell under investigation by Lehi police for bigamy, after their TLC reality show “Sister Wives” first aired.

In his December ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups struck down a portion of Utah’s bigamy statute that prohibited cohabitation with more than one person — a section of the law used to prosecute polygamists in the past. The decision has been hailed by Utah’s polygamous churches, who believe it will bring them out of the shadows. Anti-polygamy activists have decried the ruling and said it will not solve the problems of abuse within the culture.

In the filing, the Brown family’s attorneys claim the state and the Utah County Attorney remained largely silent about their demand for a ruling that declared the anti-bigamy statute unconstitutional.

“There is no provision in the federal rules for such a judicial equivalent of a Mulligan for the hapless or absent litigant,” Turley and Alba wrote.

The Utah County Attorney’s Office, which is being represented in some aspects by the Utah Attorney General’s Office, asked for additional time to respond to the judge. Once Waddoups enters a final order, the state of Utah has 30 days to formally decide whether it will appeal the decision to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is in the midst of challenging another case involving marriage — another federal judge’s ruling that declared Amendment 3 unconstitutional. The decision opened the doors for more than 1,300 same-sex couples to marry in Utah. Amendment 3 defines marriage as between a man and a woman and does not recognize anything else. It was passed in 2004 by a majority of Utah voters.

Utah gave up polygamy as a condition of statehood in 1896.

Turley and Alba do not rule out asking for attorney’s fees, noting they have represented the Browns in their lawsuit largely pro bono.