‘Sister Wives’ Lawsuit Dismissed—Polygamy “Recriminalized” In Utah

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A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit filed by the stars of TLC’s  Sister Wives, declaring that Kody Brown and his four wives faced no threat of prosecution, from Utah authorities.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver handed down the ruling Monday, sending the case back to a lower court, essentially dismissing it. Polygamy is once again considered “recriminalized” in the state of Utah. Kody Brown, along with wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn filed the suit against the state, claiming a violation on their rights to privacy, and freedom of religion. Kody noted that all should have the “freedom to love.” In 2014, a federal judge agreed with the Browns, and overturned part of the state’s ban on polygamy. The judge declared that it was no longer illegal to “cohabitate” with multiple people, but no multiple marriage licenses would be granted. The state appealed.

According to court documents, viewers did contact the local authorities when Sister Wives began airing in 2010, inquiring how authorities were planning to handle the Browns clear violation of the state’s polygamy ban. The documents explain, “The day after the first episode aired, the Department publicly announced it was investigating the Browns for violations of the statute.” This triggered the dramatic storyline on the show, where the Browns were seen fleeing under the cover of night, hyping their fear of criminal prosecution. Interestingly, the Browns may have had a case, back when the initial investigation began. However, Utah adopted new polygamy policies in 2012, that stated the Utah County Attorney would only bring bigamy prosecutions against “those who (1) induce a partner to marry through misrepresentation or (2) are suspected of committing a collateral crime such as fraud or abuse.”

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the “Sister Wives” lawsuit, ruling they “do not face a credible threat of prosecution.” They cite the Utah County Attorney’s repeated declarations that he would not prosecute polygamy alone, unless the practice was tied to other crimes. The court wrote—

“He declared under penalty of perjury that the Browns will not be prosecuted absent evidence of a collateral crime. And the dearth of prior UCAO prosecutions under the Statute—at least for bare violations unconnected to collateral crimes—indicates his position is not mere posturing.”

Many believe that the Browns have held their happy family facade together, based on maintaining a united stand, while this lawsuit played out. TLC has been strangely silent, about the future of the show, recently rocked by scandal. Will we finally learn more about the Brown family’s true reality? Stay tuned. 


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