Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mormon Utah Judge Married to 3 Sisters

Ok, so this story has NOTHING to do with the typical subjects of the site. But it is pretty crazy.

A 14 month investigation of Judge Walter K. Steed of Hilldale, Utah has determined that Steed violated the Utah law against bigamy by marrying three sisters. These marriages took place in 1965, 1975, and 1985. One sister per decade apparently. Judge Steed also has 32 kids, that's quite a few Steeds!!!! The investigating commission had recommended that Steed be removed from the bench (do ya think!?)

It's good to be a judge though...for some odd reason the Washington County prosecutor and Utah Attorney General have decided not to file charges against Steed. It would be a 3rd degee felony charge. Why not?

According to Steed's attorney, Rod Parker: "[t]here is no allegation that it's affecting his performance on the bench," Parker said. "It really is truly only about his private conduct." Parker said the bigamy law is typically only enforced against those who are "duped" into marrying a man who is already married.

Forget all that stuff about judicial oaths to uphold the law eh? And seriously, how could 32 kids and 3 wives NOT affect your performance at everything?

Steed is even petitioning the Utah Supreme Court to allow him to stay on the bench!

Seriously, if that happened here in NY Steed would be immediatly suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, upon these findings he would be fired and quite likely disbarred.

(November 2005) CNN Article -- Utah judge with 3 wives fights for job

(March 2005) Law.com article -- Utah Conduct Commission to Judge: Three Wives and You're Out

11 Comments:

Blogger Garrett said...

One thing you have to remember, is that he is only technically married to one woman, the other two women were not married by civil marriages, and therefore, prosecuting such a case is difficult, even if it were to take place in NY.

11/04/2005 4:48 PM  
Blogger Garrett said...

Oh, and another thing--he is not Mormon! The Mormon church, officially the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, excommunicates any member found practicing polygamy. As a Mormon myself, I find it offensive to label him as one of us.

11/04/2005 4:51 PM  
Blogger CRC said...

Garrett, as to your first comment:

So you think that Steed should get off on a technicality since he didn't register them with the government -- because he married the other 2 wives in religious ceremonies it's ok?

At times, when it comes to legal argument technicalities do matter, I'm no expert on the legal status concerning those who marry in religious ceremonies and don't register with the government as compared to those who do register. However, I am quite certain that Judge Steed would be disbarred regardless, if this occured in NY. He would almost certainly also be prosecuted.

This is clear when one considers the fact that whether or not the extra wives consent to the marriage does not make bigamy ok. Why? Because the bigamy law's main purpose is to protect the female victims of bigamy. Bigmay law is comparable to the law on spousal abuse -- whether or not the woman wishes to press charges against an abuser, the state does it anyway because it is thought to be in her best interest.

I seriously doubt Judge Steed would get off on a technicality here anyway -- the local and state authorities are choosing not to prosecute because perhaps it is a tough case, but likely also because it would be a national news story and embarassment to the state, local community, and the Mormon religious community which has been working for decades to rid itself of a reputation for quietly allowing bigamy while saying it is not allowed publically.

In NY state I suspect the prosecutor would go ahead and press charges. Then at trial the law on this matter would be settled (if it is not already). Unsettled law on technicalities is never a reason not to move forward against a criminal.

11/07/2005 4:22 PM  
Blogger CRC said...

As for your second comment Garrett:

Judge Steed is Mormon. He's just not the type of Mormon you want associated with your MAINSTREAM variety of Mormonism.

Think about it -- are Islamist Terrorists Muslim? I doubt you had to think hard about that one. But most Muslims would say that the terrorists are not following the teachings of Mohammed when they blow themselves up on a bus killing innocent people.

Are the American soldiers in Iraq who consider themselves Catholic really not Catholic because they have shot and killed other human beings? Easy one right...of course they are still Christians, even though some would say it is a pacifistic religion and that God himself said "thall shalt not kill." Still Catholic, though maybe not mainstream.

You may not like Judge Steed's practice of polygamy, but the practice undeniably arises from a tradition in the Mormon religion. A tradition that the LDS church officially ended only 115 years ago under pressure from the US government. That's only 4 generations back. And as we all know there are still ten of thousands of splinter group or fundamentalist Mormons that practice polygamy.

Sorry Garrett, maybe Judge Steed isn't "Mormon" to you; but he's sure as hell Mormon to the rest of us.

11/07/2005 4:54 PM  
Blogger Garrett said...

I'm not advocating polygamy and this judge's actions. I hope he is disbarred and that he doesn't "get off on a technicality." However, I wished to emphasize in my first comment the point that lawyers especially should be aware of, and that is the fact that this man's "alternate lifestyle" is not illegal because of the loop holes in the definitions of bigamy laws. Even in NY, you could not prosecute this man for bigamy, unfortunately. You can't prosecute someone who hasn't broken a law, so don't try and claim NY somehow can. I don't know the rules for being disbarred, whether or not you must be convicted to be disbarred or whether you can be disbarred just for unethical or immoral behavior. If you can be disbarred for the latter and not just the former, I hope this judge is disbarred, because while he didn't technically break the law, he shouldn't be a judge because of his sidestepping the law. One must think, though, that someday the argument may come up in a court of law, "Can you be disbarred for alternative lifestyles?" If so then do we disbar all homosexuals along with the men with multiple wives? Although I don't agree with their behavior, I don't have a problem with homosexuals being on the bench, and I wouldn't have a problem with a polygamist being on the bench if it were legal and as long as there was no coersion or molestation involved. Religious issues aside, what is wrong with homosexuality if they are consenting adults, and what is wrong with polygamy if they are consenting and legal adults? I don't speak for my religion, though, this is just my opinion.

The LDS church has never "quitely allowed polygamy." We believe in modern prophets, just as the prophets of old. We believe when a prophet speaks, just as Moses spoke, his word is a commandment of God. While this may sound funny to most, remember the ten commandments weren't exactly well-received in their time either. When the modern prophet announced the end of all polygamy years ago, that ended any sanctioning, officially or unoffically by the church. Excommunionication is not a three strikes any you're out rule. Claims such as yours of my church "quitely allowing bigamy" yours are false, unsupported, and merely heresay.

The reason the tag "Mormon" judge is offensive is because the nickname "Mormon" in modern terms refers most commonly to members of my religion. You wouldn't post a headline on the front of the New York Times like "Methodist Soldier Convicted in Abu Ghraib Mistreatment" or "Southern Baptist Impeached for Lying to Grand Jury Over Lewinsy Trial", so why post an article beginning with "Mormon Judge?"

11/07/2005 6:02 PM  
Blogger CRC said...

First of all, I disagree with you your legalish argument re this not being a crime. Like I said, whether a "marriage" is conducted soley by a church and isn't registered with the state doesn't necessarily make it a "non-legal" marriage for prosecutorial purposes. Honestly, I don't know...and not to sound snarky, but I did go to law school and study this stuff, so I'm sticking with my opinion on it.

Second, bigamy isn't an "alternative lifestyle," it's an illegal activity. Even if you wanted to term it as an alternative lifestyle - this country has and does rank some varieties of "alternative" as ok and some as illegal. Engaging is homosexual sex is not illegal even though it is considerd alternative. Being a criminal (thief, murderer, bigamist, whatever) isn't an "alternative" to living within the bounds of the law.

Third. You say you don't advocate polygamy -- clearly, as an individual, you've decided this isn't the right "lifestyle" for you plus it's not allowed by your church. But you also say that for those who consent, polygamy should be ok. Again, nothing personal, but the vast majority of Americans disagree and that has been codified in statutes making polygamy illegal. I hate to say it, but *it seems to me* that your differing opinion transcends being "liberal" about social relations and may be an artifact of your religious upbringing in the LDS church. The reason polygamy is illegal is because there's plenty of evidence that polygamy is damaging to women, their rights, and their psycology. Ie -- there generally is a victim with polygamy.

Finally, you're right that the NY Times wouldn't print a headline reading: "Methodist Soldier Convicted in Abu Ghraib Mistreatment." Why? Because his religion is irrelevant to that act of mistreatment. My title is different because this judge's decision to practice polygamy is related to his status as a Mormon. Sorry Garrett, but it's an apples and oranges comparison you want to make your point with and that doesn't work.

I understand that you want to take cover from popular understanding by reference to the official line of your church -- but as we know, churches often do and say differeing things. People think that the continuing practice of polygamy in places like Utah are related to Mormonism because it is, plain and simple. Even if those polygamists are breaking the rules of the LDS and aren't even considered members. Polygamy is practiced out there because of the history of the LDS, period.

It'd be more helpful if LDS members would admit to some ongoing problems and figure out how to deal with them. It would also be good for LDS public relations.

11/23/2005 12:32 PM  
Blogger Sergeant said...

Ok, I realize this is a very stale thread but I found it as I was searching for the Utah Supreme Court's opinion on the case (Which they still have not issued).

As far as this particular variety of polygamy is concerned, it would be hard to prosecute. Compare it to homosexual marriages that are not recognized by the state but are performed by some church official or friend. I think you would have a hard time prosecuting that as well. When they happen between consenting adults you really don't have a leg to stand on in this day and age.

As far as whether they will remove him from the bench, the argument of the proceedings (which I attended) focused on the reputation of the court. In the community where Steed sits as a municipal judge polygamy is accepted (Hildale is mostly made up of members of a fundamentalist LDS religion) and is not disreputable. However, the argument was made that while his activities are not disreputable in his jurisdiction, if the Judicial Review allows his activities they would have to allow polygamy by other judges in other areas of the state where polygamy is not commonly accepted.

2/24/2006 12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me make sure I've got this straight. Hugh Hefner is an American Icon and at age 79, co-habitates with three "girlfriends" ages 31,25, and 19 and gets a tv show about this arrangement. He is the man "everyone wants to be".

And Walter Steed should be disbarred why?

2/24/2006 7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, Hugh Hefner does not claim the women he "cohabitates" with to be his wives as does Steed, I believe this is a noteworthy distinction. Secondly, Garret is only partially correct when he contends that Steed is not a "mormon", OK, they refer to themselves as the FLDS or fundamentalist latter day saints as opposed to the mormons who simply call their church "LDS", church of Jesus christ of latter day saints, and both groups claim Joseph Smith as their prophet, so to claim that these guys are not "mormons" is a bit disingenuous if you ask me, maybe they are not mainstream mormon, but certainly a branch or offshoot of the mormon church, this is largely a difference of nomenclature and semantics as far as I am concerned.

2/24/2006 8:49 PM  
Blogger Sergeant said...

Well I posted prematurely, Judge Steed will be removed from the bench. In response to the previous comment, the pertinent part of the opinion reads:

Judges in this state are expected to abide by all of
the laws applicable to them. 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.


Sergeant

2/24/2006 8:50 PM  
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8/27/2008 2:23 AM  

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