Utah judicial commission recommends unseating polygamous judge

San Diego Union Tribune/February 25, 2005

St George, Utah -- The Utah Judicial Conduct Commission has recommended that a judge be removed from the bench because he is a polygamist.

The order was reached after Judge Walter Steed and his attorney Rod Parker held a confidential meeting with commission members in January. It now goes directly to the Utah Supreme Court.

Steed, who has served as Justice Court judge in the polygamous border town of Hildale since 1980, is legally married to one woman and spiritually married to two other women, and has 32 children. He is a member of the reclusive Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which dominates Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz.

The hearing panel concluded that Steed violated his oath of office because he was breaking the law.

"Judge Steed has willfully engaged in bigamy ... which is a third-degree felony in the state of Utah," the panel wrote. "By engaging in bigamy, Judge Steed has brought the judiciary into disrepute."

Both the Utah attorney general and Washington County attorney declined to file criminal charges against Steed.

Steed has raised complex constitutional issues in his defense, which the Supreme Court will likely address once it has received the commission's recommendation.

Parker said he believes the cohabitation prong of Utah's bigamy law - which allows prosecutors to pursue people who consider themselves plurally married but have only single legal marriage - is unconstitutional.

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