Utah Supreme Court Orders Polygamist Judge Removed

A small-town judge with three wives was ordered removed from the bench by the Utah Supreme Court on Friday.

The court unanimously agreed with the findings of the state's Judicial Conduct Commission, which recommended the removal of Judge Walter Steed for violating the state's bigamy law.

Steed has served for 25 years on the Justice Court in the polygamist community of Hildale in southern Utah, where he ruled on such matters as drunken driving and domestic violence cases.

The commission last year sought his removal from the bench after a 14-month investigation determined Steed was a polygamist and had violated Utah's bigamy law. Bigamy is a third-degree felony in Utah punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

Steed scheduled a news conference for Friday afternoon to discuss the ruling.

The initial complaint against him was filed in 2003 by Tapestry Against Polygamy, a group founded by women who had left the secretive colonies.

Steed legally married his first wife in 1965, according to court documents. The second and third wives were married — or "sealed" as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints refers to it — to him in religious ceremonies in 1975 and 1985. The three women are sisters.

Plural marriage was an original tenet of the mainline Mormon church, but the faith abandoned the practice in 1890. About 30,000 polygamists, who split from the main church into various fundamentalist sects, are believed to be living in Utah, the Southwest, Mexico and Canada.