Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Case Law Development: Utah Supreme Court Removes Judge with Three Wives

The Utah Supreme Court Friday found that Judge Walter Steed flouted state law by engaging in a plural relationship with three women and ordered him to step down from office.  In an opinion authored by Associate Chief Justice Michael J. Wilkins, the court affirmed the earlier decision of the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission, which had said that judges must comply with laws they are expected to uphold.

Associate Chief Justice Wilkins said that Steed brought disrepute to the office by violating Utah's bigamy statute during the 25 years he served on the bench.  He wrote that “In the case of a sitting judge, it is of little or no consequence that the judge may believe a criminal statute is constitutionally defective. A judge ignores the clearly stated criminal prohibitions of the law at his or her peril. . . . . Civil disobedience carries consequences for a judge that may not be applicable to other citizens. The dignity and respect accorded the judiciary is a necessary element of the rule of law. When the law is violated or ignored by those charged by society with the fair and impartial enforcement of the law, the stability of our society is placed at undue risk.” News Source:  Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune,  For the complete story, please click here (last visited February 25, 2006, reo).  Download Utah ruling.pdf

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