SCOTUS to Conference on “Sister Wives” case on Obama’s Last Day

On January 19, 2017, the very last full day of the Obama Presidency, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will be “in CONFERENCE” regarding the “Sister Wives” polygamy case, Brown v. Buhman. Unfortunately, the issue of unrelated consenting adult polygamy (UCAP), itself, will not be the focus of the Supreme Court Justices. Rather, the SCOTUS Justices will only be conferring over whether or not to even hear the case due to the technicality of “legal standing” issues. As reports, only the following are at issue:

  1. Whether the government can seek to moot a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a statute by adopting a new non-enforcement policy during the pendency of litigation;
  2. whether the government can later moot by voluntary cessation a subsequently filed lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a statute under which the government publicly threatened a party with prosecution; and
  3. when a district court makes underlying findings of fact in the course of adjudicating a claim under the voluntary cessation doctrine, under what standard of review those findings should be examined on appeal.

Last year, on April 11, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed the polygamy-positive decision of the lower court. A month later, on May 13, 2016, the same 10th Circuit Court refused the “en banc” request to re-hear the matter.

As I (Mark Henkel) had explained to FOX 10,

“It was not reversed on the merits of any arguments whatsoever.
They refused to hear any arguments at all.”

On September 12, 2016, attorneys for the Brown family petitioned SCOTUS for a Writ of Certiorari.

On December 27, 2016, Utah Attorney General’s Office (UAGO) filed their reply in opposition, asking SCOTUS to deny the petition.

On January 3, 2017, Lead Attorney for the Browns, Jonathan Turley, filed their rebuttal to UAGO’s brief in opposition. Noting that the UAGO was simply wrong (namely, that there is a “split” among the different US Circuits on the technicality issue), the rebuttal reply – more than once – indicated that the case should be remanded (sent back down) to the Tenth Circuit Court, stating that these issues

require at the very least a remand with instructions to apply the appropriate standard (Page 10)


require (at the very least) a remand with instructions to apply the appropriate rules of law (Page 13).

That same day, January 3, 2017, the eventual date was determined on which the Justices of SCOTUS are scheduled to be “IN CONFERENCE” to determine whether or not to even hear the case: January 19, 2017.

It is ironic that this will be held on the very last full day that US President Barack Obama is President, the day before the incoming President Donald Trump is inaugurated. Years ago, back on November 7, 2008, only three days after Barack Obama was first elected, an article was sent to the media by, the national polygamy movement’s media-distribution site, titled, “Obama’s Historic Election Gives Hope to Polygamous Americans.” With the caveat of specific political views aside, the article concluded with the following:

Now that African Americans have successfully traveled that amazing road from oppression to president, then consenting-adult polygamous Americans can do it too.

The dream continues. God bless America indeed!

Indeed, that article took note of the famous, important “content of character” line from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It continued that line with the following, directly quoting me:

National Polygamy Advocate, Mark Henkel, has long shared Martin Luther King’s dream. Content of character is really what matters indeed. Henkel has said, “I have a dream that one day a man will be judged, not based on the number of consenting-adult wives who willingly marry him, but, indeed, based only on the content of his character.” For polygamous Americans, the dream continues.

That polygamy-version “I Have Dream” quote has been repeatedly cited over the past decade. It has even become a polygamy meme.

Yet now, on what will be the very last day of the presidency of the very first elected African American president, Barack Obama, January 19, 2017, unrelated consenting adult polygamous Americans are left with the disappointing reality that SCOTUS will only be conferring about whether or not to even hear the polygamy case of Brown v. Buhman.

On New Years Day this year, January 1, 2017,, distributed another article to the media, titled, “Will Supreme Court Hear ‘Sister Wives’ Polygamy case in 2017?” The article ended with my direct quote, which succinctly sums up the frustrating “worry” that unrelated consenting adult polygamists (UCAP) now have regarding what SCOTUS could do (or rather, not do) with this important case.

“Will Brown v. Buhman be our Hollingsworth?”

What will the Supreme Court do after January 19, 2017? We can only wait.

PDFs of the formal filings & decision

  1. Turley Rebuttal Reply Brief for Brown v BuhmanPDF (Jan. 03, 2017)
  2. Utah AG Office brief in oppositionPDF (Dec. 27, 2016)
  3. Brown v. Buhman petition for a Writ of CertiorariPDF (Sept. 12, 2016)
  4. Tenth Circuit Court Reverses Brown v. BuhmanPDF (Apr. 11, 2016)

For background on the case, please see:

  –   Will Supreme Court Hear ‘Sister Wives’ Polygamy case in 2017?
  –   Utah AG Office opposes “Sister Wives” petition of Supreme Court
  –   “Sister Wives” Family Petitions the Supreme Court
  –   Last Steps for Polygamy Heading to Supreme Court in 2017
  –   10th Circuit Refuses to Re-hear “Sister Wives” case
  –   * BREAKING NEWS * 10th Circuit Reverses “Sister Wives” case
  –   “Sister Wives” Appeal at 10th Circuit set for Jan. 2016
  –   Judge Awards Damages to Polygamists for Utah Violating Rights
  –   ‘De Facto’ Polygamy De-Criminalized in Utah by Federal Court

January 18th, 2017 by