Utah high court ousts polygamist judge

[JURIST] The Utah Supreme Court [official website] Friday ruled to remove a polygamist judge from the bench, explaining that Hildale Justice Court Judge Walter Steed clearly broke the law by being married to three women at once. Steed worked as a part-time justice court judge since 1980 in the border town of Hildale, a polygamous town. The high court unanimously agreed that Steed’s personal and religious beliefs cannot violate the laws he swore to uphold while on the bench. The ruling [PDF text], written by Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins, stated that judges are expected to meet a higher standard of behavior than other people who simply obey the law or risk undermining society. Wilkins stated:

Civil disobedience carries consequences for a judget hat may not be applicable to other citizens. When the law is violated or ignored by thosoe charged by society with the fair and impartial enforcement of the law, the stability of society is placed at undue risk.
Advocacy group Tapestry Against Polygamy [advocacy website] drew attention to Steed’s religious beliefs last year when it filed a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Commission [official website], which investigates claims of judicial misbehavior. Pro-polygamy groups had hoped that Steed’s case might lead to the legalization of polygamy. Steed, who has 32 children with his three wives, maintained throughout the case that he would give up his job before he would give up his polygamist practice [ABC report]. From Utah, the Deseret Morning News has more.

 

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