Supreme Court Asks Utah To Respond Polygamy Appeal
The U.S. Supreme Court has asked Utah's Attorney General to respond to a polygamist police officer's appeal of his bigamy conviction.

An attorney for Rodney Holm, a member of the polygamy-practicing southern Utah-based Fundamentalist Church Attorney General Mark Shurtleff had previously said his office would only respond to the filing at the court's request. A letter from court officials was received Friday.

"This means they have some interest in hearing the case," said Paul Murphy, Shurtleff's spokesman. "How much we don't know. Obviously, we are going to follow the court's direction."

In its letter, the high court asked that 40 printed copies of the attorney general's response be submitted by Dec. 13. Murphy said the office will ask for additional time to comply.

Holm's attorney, Rod Parker, said the request offers the possibility the case will be heard. The U.S. Supreme court last dealt with the issue of polygamy more than 100 years ago.

"As I understand the process, a single justice can request a response, so it doesn't tell us much about the level of interest," Parker said in an e-mail. "Nevertheless, 90 percent of cert petitions die on the threshold of the courthouse. At least we have made it inside."

In the appeal, Holm asks justices to consider whether the 1879 Reynolds decision which bans polygamy remains justified given modern cohabitation practices and recent court decisions related to the privacy rights of consenting adults.

The appeal does not challenge states' rights to recognize only certain marriages.

Holm was convicted of bigamy in 2003 for having entered a religious marriage with Ruth Stubbs in 1998. Stubbs was 16 when she became Holm's third wife. He was 32 at the time. Stubbs left Holm in 2001.

Utah's Supreme Court upheld the conviction in May, although Chief Justice Christine Durham filed a dissenting opinion that said the state unevenly applies its bigamy statute.
Originally published November 18, 2006