Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Does Polygamy Lower Public Esteem Of The Judiciary? Utah Court To Give Answer

The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on whether Judge Walter Steed is lowering public esteem for the judiciary and should be removed from the bench because he has three wives. Utah's Judicial Commission says the Hildale Justice Court judge is bringing his office into disrepute with his practice of polygamy - a violation of law by an official sworn to uphold it.  Steed says he should remain a judge.  "As long as I do my job, why shouldn't I?" he asked a crowd of reporters after the arguments. Describing himself as a fundamentalist Mormon, Steed said he has taken three wives as a religious practice and that his lifestyle has no effect on his fairness as a judge. He contends that other jurists who are breaking the law are not being disciplined. "Which is worse, a monogamist who doesn't monog or a polygamist who really polygs?" Steed asked. Steed and the three women were all adults when they married and he now has 32 children. Steed’s lawyer noted during oral argument of the case that the Utah Attorney General's Office and Washington County authorities have declined to prosecute the judge for bigamy and argued there should be no removal without criminal prosecution. He also said the description of what actions bring a judicial office into disrepute and what mental state amounts to "willful" conduct is vague. Parker said enforcement of the bigamy statute can be arbitrary and what is considered disreputable in one community might not be considered wrong in another community. Source.  Pamela Manson, The Salt Lake Tribune, Please click here for addition information (last visted November 5, 2005, reo).

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