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Attorney General
Sean D. Reyes
Utah Office of the Attorney General
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Attorney General Statement on US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Dismissal of Brown v. Buhman

SALT LAKE CITY April 11, 2016 – In an opinion today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued its decision in Brown v. Buhman, No. 14-4117, reversing a 2013 decision by the Utah District Court to strike down the cohabitation provision of the Utah polygamy law. The Tenth Circuit’s opinion, drafted by Judge Scott Matheson, Jr., is attached below. The Tenth Circuit panel ruled on standing grounds, finding the case moot.

“We are pleased with the opinion of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Brown v. Buhman,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “While the Office of the Attorney General was long ago dismissed from this case, we represented the Utah County Attorney’s Office on appeal as is our obligation whenever there is a facial challenge to our state statutes and Constitution.

“Similar to our own office policy, Utah County only prosecutes bigamy crimes against those who induce marriage under false pretenses or if there is a collateral malfeasance, such as fraud, domestic abuse, child abuse, sex abuse or other abuse. As a result of this policy, the Tenth Circuit found that there is no harm to the Browns and that the district court had erred in granting summary judgment.

“I applaud the hard work of our lawyers and support team in this case led by Federal Solicitor Parker Douglas. I appreciate the professionalism and skilled lawyering on the other side of this case. And I understand the desire to decriminalize cohabitation by those otherwise law abiding citizens living in such households.

“We want them to come out of any shadows to report crimes, avoid abuse and continue to live peaceful and productive lives. We have worked with them in the past to those ends. And we have not used our scarce resources to prosecute them unless there is evidence of violence, fraud or corruption.

“Legislation was very close to passing this last session on cohabitation. Perhaps one day the laws will change, but if they do, it should be through the democratic process. Until then, it is the duty of the AG’s Office to defend such laws to the best of our ability.”

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Opinion in Brown v. Buhman 14-4117