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Will Supreme Court Hear 'Sister Wives' Polygamy case in 2017?

Date: Jan 01, 2017
Word Count: 1000 words
Cross-Reference: Sister Wives, Supreme Court, Brown v Buhman

As Brown v. Buhman case petitions SCOTUS, 'Article 3 standing' technicalities could deny any 'merits' of arguments from even being heard.

As Brown v. Buhman case petitions SCOTUS, "Article 3 standing" technicalities could deny any "merits" of arguments from even being heard.

For   this   New   Year's   Day,   2017,   pro-polygamists   are   -   with   bated   breath   -   anxiously   watching   the   Supreme   Court   of   the   United   States   (SCOTUS)   for   this   specific   year.       On   September   12,   2016,   attorneys   for   the   Brown   family   of   TLC's   reality-TV   show,   "Sister   Wives,"   petitioned   SCOTUS   to   hear   the   polygamy   case,   Brown   v.   Buhman.     On   December   27,   2016,   the   Utah   Attorney   General's   Office   (UAGO)   filed   their   brief   in   opposition.    
But   will   the   Supreme   Court   even   hear   the   case?     Will   the   case   even   be   allowed   to   be   heard   "on   the   merits"   of   the   arguments?     Or,   noting   what   SCOTUS   did   to   same   sex   marriage   (SSM)   with   Hollingsworth   v.   Perry   in   2013   due   to   "Article   3   standing"   issues,   will   the   Court   do   similarly   to   unrelated   consenting   adult   polygamy   (UCAP)   with   Brown   v.   Buhman   in   2017? 
The   worry   behind   these   questions   began   a   year   ago   when,   on   December   11,   2015,   the   U.S.   Court   of   Appeals   for   the   Tenth   Circuit   ordered   both   sides   in   this   polygamy   case   to   file   briefs   that   specifically   address   the   following   two   questions:   "1)   Whether   Appellees   had   standing   and   their   claims   against   Appellant   Buhman   were   ripe   at   the   time   of   the   complaint;   and   2)   if   so,   whether   the   prosecutorial   policy   announced   in   Appellant   Buhman's   May   22,   2012   declaration,   or   any   other   matters,   rendered   Appellees'   claims   against   him   moot." 
The   next   day,   on   December   12,   2015,   National   Polygamy   Advocate   ™   Mark   Henkel   blogged,   "The   Tenth   District's   U.S.   Circuit   Court   of   Appeals   is   the   last   court   to   hear   the   case   before   possibly   proceeding   next   up   to   the   final   court   of   the   Supreme   Court   of   the   United   States   (SCOTUS).   Hence,   this   'next   to   last   court'   might   be   having   a   recent   Decision   by   SCOTUS   'nagging'   the   back   of   their   mind.     Namely,   as   recently   as   2013,   SCOTUS   vacated   the   Hollingsworth   v.   Perry   case   (instead   of   deciding   it)   simply   because   of   the   lack   of   correct   "standing"   issue.   For   many,   the   hope   of   that   decision   based   'on   its   merits'   potentiated   it   as   a   possibly   very   big   case   too.   Truly,   if   Hollingsworth   had   been   decided   'on   its   merits'   rather   than   being   vacated   on   the   technicality   of   improper   'standing,'   it   might   even   have   had   impact   on   this   Brown   v.   Buhman   case.   Instead,   Hollingsworth   had   no   positive   impact   for   UCAP   polygamy.   As   such,   there   is   a   possibility   that   the   motive   behind   the   Appeals   Court   asking   these   two   questions   is   a   positive   one;   it   could   be   that   they   want   to   proverbially   'dot   all   the   i's   and   cross   all   the   t's'   so   that   SCOTUS   will   not   subsequently   vacate   this   decision   too   due   to   the   'standing'   issue.   However,   if   that   is   not   the   intent,   then   those   two   questions   are   worrisome;   the   questions   could   otherwise   seem   to   suggest   that   the   court   itself   is   pro-actively   looking   for   ways   to   intentionally   allow   such   bad   law   to   stay   on   the   books   by   purposely   trying   to   find   such   technicalities   with   which   to   stop   the   case   at   this   lower-level   court." 
On   January   21,   2016,   the   Tenth   Circuit   Court   heard   the   case.   Less   than   three   months   later,   on   April   11th,   this   Appeals   Court   reversed   the   lower   court's   decision   back   to   status   quo.     On   May   12th,   this   Court   also   denied   the   "en   banc"   request   for   a   re-hearing. 
That   reversal   was   devastating   for   two   reasons. 
First,   the   lower   court   had   effectively   de-criminalized   "de   facto"   polygamy   for   unrelated   consenting   adults   (i.e.,   polygamy,   but   with   no   more   than   one   marriage   license),   corrected   the   meaning   of   "purports   to   be   married"   to   only   apply   to   those   who   purport   to   be   legally   married   to   more   than   one   spouse   (i.e.,   purporting   to   have   more   than   one   legal   marriage   license),   and   retained   the   criminality   of   "de   jure"   polygamy   (i.e.,   polygamy   with   more   than   one   marriage   license).     The   Tenth   Circuit   Court   reversed   all   of   these. 
Second,   as   well   as   making   the   disappointment   even   worse,   "the   merits"   of   the   arguments   for   the   case   were   not   even   considered.     Rather,   the   Tenth   Circuit   simply   mooted   the   Brown   family's   "Article   3   standing,"   determining   that   the   Browns   no   longer   "had   legal   standing"   to   eligibly   bring   such   a   case   to   hearing. 
As   the   National   Polygamy   Advocate   ™   Mark   Henkel   told   FOX-TV   10,   "It   was   not   reversed   on   the   merits   of   any   arguments   whatsoever.   They   refused   to   hear   any   arguments   at   all." 
On   August   10,   2016,   Supreme   Court   Justice   Sonia   Sotomayor   signed   off   on   granting   the   Browns'   attorneys   a   month   to   file   their   petition   for   a   Writ   of   Certiorari   to   bring   the   case   up   to   SCOTUS.      
On   September   12,   2016,   the   Brown   family's   attorneys   filed   that   petition.   However,   due   to   the   reversal   being   based   on   "Article   3   standing"   issues   of   the   Brown   family,   the   petition   did   not   focus   all   that   much   on   polygamy   arguments.     Instead,   it   focused   on   the   "voluntary   cessation   doctrine"   by   which   the   Tenth   Circuit   justified   its   mooting   of   the   Brown   family's   "Article   3   standing."   The   petition   pointed   out   that   other   U.S.   Circuit   Courts   apply   a   different   standard   of   review   that   would   not   have   mooted   the   Browns'   "standing." 
Two   months   later,   in   November,   SCOTUS   requested   a   response   from   the   other   (i.e.,   the   "Buhman")   side   in   the   case.     On   December   27,   2016,   the   Utah   Attorney   General   Office   (UAGO)   filed   their   brief   in   opposition.     Using   repeatedly   condescending   language,   the   brief   insisted   that   there   is   "no   split"   among   the   different   US   Circuit   Courts,   regarding   standards   of   review   for   cases   involving   "voluntary   cessation   doctrine."     Thereby,   the   UAGO   requested   that   the   Supreme   Court   simply   deny   even   hearing   the   case.    
For   this   New   Year   2017,   UCAP   polygamists   watch   and   await   with   worry. 
Will   unrelated   consenting   adult   polygamy   even   be   allowed   to   have   this   case   heard   by   the   Supreme   Court   "on   the   merits"   of   pro-polygamy   arguments?     Will   SCOTUS   deny   the   petition,   not   letting   Brown   v.   Buhman   be   heard   at   all?     Or,   will   the   Supreme   Court   actually   allow   -   and   even   hear   -   the   case,   but   still   only   end   up   affirming   the   Tenth   Circuit's   reversal? 
Will   SCOTUS   embrace   this   rare   opportunity   to   re-consider   the   constitutionality   of   unrelated   consenting   adult   polygamy   (UCAP)?     Or,   will   the   Supreme   Court   waste   this   unique   moment   in   history;   as   National   Polygamy   Advocate   ™   Mark   Henkel   has   worried,   "Will   Brown   v.   Buhman   be   our   Hollingsworth?" 


Bibliographic URLs:

"Sister Wives" Family Petitions the Supreme Court 
Utah AG Office opposes "Sister Wives" petition of Supreme Court 
Pro-Polygamists NOT 'Excited' about Supreme Court Decisions 
"Sister Wives" Appeal at 10th Circuit set for Jan. 2016 
* BREAKING NEWS * 10th Circuit Reverses "Sister Wives" case 
10th Circuit Refuses to Re-hear "Sister Wives" case 
'De Facto' Polygamy De-Criminalized in Utah by Federal Court 
Judge Awards Damages to Polygamists for Utah Violating Rights 
Mark Henkel on FOX 10 Phoenix - 5-24-2016 - Polygamy 
Last Steps for Polygamy Heading to Supreme Court in 2017 
PDF: Brown family's "Petition For A Writ Of Certiorari 
PDF: UAGO's "Brief in Opposition" 
[Reviewed for publication - Review Board.]

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