State v. Green

Decision Date03 September 2004
Docket NumberNo. 20010788.,20010788.
Citation99 P.3d 820,2004 UT 76
PartiesSTATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Thomas Arthur GREEN, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtUtah Supreme Court

Mark L. Shurtleff, Att'y Gen., Laura B. Dupaix, Asst. Att'y Gen., Salt Lake City, for plaintiff.

John R. Bucher, Grant W.P. Morrison, Salt Lake City, for defendant.

W. Andrew McCullough, Trenton K. Ricks, Midvale, for amicus Utah Coalition for Religious Freedom and Tolerance.

Brian M. Barnard, James L. Harris, Jr., Salt Lake City, for amicus Utah Civil Rights and Liberties Foundation.

On Certification from the Utah Court of Appeals

PARRISH, Justice:

¶ 1 A jury convicted Thomas Green of criminal nonsupport and four counts of bigamy. Green appeals his bigamy convictions. He asserts that they violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. He also argues that Utah's bigamy statute, Utah Code Ann. § 76-7-101 (1999), is unconstitutionally vague and that the district court erred in applying Utah's unsolemnized marriage statute, Utah Code Ann. § 30-1-4.5 (1999). We affirm.


¶ 2 An avowed polygamist, Green has participated in simultaneous conjugal-type relationships with multiple women. These women all use Green's surname and have borne children who also use the Green surname.2 Between 1970 and 1996, Green formed relationships with Lynda Penman, Beth Cook, Linda Kunz, Shirley Beagley, June Johnson, LeeAnn Beagley, Cari Bjorkman, Hannah Bjorkman, and Julie Dawn McKinley. Through his relationships with these women, Green has fathered approximately twenty-five children.3

¶ 3 Some of the women entered into licensed marriages with Green. The remaining women participated in unlicensed ceremonies, after which they considered themselves married to Green. Green avoided being in more than one licensed marriage at a time by terminating each licensed marriage by divorce prior to obtaining a license for a new marriage.4 Green then continued his relationships with each of the women he divorced as if no divorce had occurred.

¶ 4 In 1995, Green and his family moved to Juab County, Utah, where they resided together in a collection of shared mobile homes that the family called "Green Haven." Green quartered in one mobile home, while the women and children quartered in others. Some of the mobile home areas were set aside as common dining and laundry areas, and the family shared the bathrooms scattered among the mobile homes. The women spent nights individually with Green in his mobile home on a rotating schedule.

¶ 5 Each of the women shared with Green the duties of raising the children and managing the family by dividing the tasks of cooking for the entire family, doing the family laundry, and home schooling all of the children. In addition, the women assisted with the family business, which consisted of selling magazine subscriptions. All money earned by the family business was pooled into "the Green Family Household account."

¶ 6 Between 1988 and 2001, Green appeared on various television shows with the women, consistently referring to the women as his wives, and the women likewise acknowledged spousal relationships. In these television appearances, Green acknowledged that his conduct was potentially punishable under Utah criminal statutes.

¶ 7 In April 2000, the State filed an information charging Green with, among other things, four counts of bigamy. Prior to a preliminary hearing on the charges, the State filed a motion asking that the court recognize the existence of a valid marriage between Green and Linda Kunz. The State based its motion on section 30-1-4.5 of the Utah Code, which codifies common law marriage principles, Whyte v. Blair, 885 P.2d 791, 793-94 (Utah 1994), and allows for the finding of a valid marriage in the absence of solemnization.5 In response to the motion, the district court held an evidentiary hearing in which Linda Kunz was allowed to intervene.

¶ 8 On July 10, 2000, the district court issued a memorandum decision declaring that Green and Linda Kunz were legally married pursuant to section 30-1-4.5. Specifically, the district court found that as of November 2, 1995 (the date on which Green divorced Hannah Bjorkman), both Green and Linda Kunz were single, were capable of giving consent to be married, and otherwise satisfied the requirements of section 30-1-4.5 for creating a valid unsolemnized marriage. Accordingly, the district court found that Green and Linda Kunz shared a valid marriage as of November 2, 1995.6 The district court also found probable cause to bind Green over on the four bigamy charges.

¶ 9 After the district court issued its memorandum decision, the State amended its information against Green to alter the charging dates for the bigamy counts to a specific five-year period: November 1995 to November 2000. The information alleged that Green cohabited with Shirley Beagley, LeeAnn Beagley, Cari Bjorkman, and Hannah Bjorkman while legally married to Linda Kunz in violation of Utah Code section 76-7-101.

¶ 10 The charges against Green were tried to a jury in March 2002. The jury convicted Green on all four bigamy counts. Green filed a motion for a new trial, which the district court denied. Green thereafter filed a timely notice of appeal. The court of appeals certified the appeal to this court pursuant to section 78-2-2(3)(b) of the Utah Code. Utah Code Ann. § 78-2-2(3)(b) (2002).


¶ 11 Before addressing the substance of the arguments Green raises on appeal, we pause to review the importance of complying with appellate briefing requirements. "`Our rules of appellate procedure clearly specify the requirements that litigants must meet when submitting briefs to this court. See Utah R.App. P. 24. The rules are easy to understand and offer a step-by-step approach to writing an appellate brief.'" Beehive Tel. Co. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 2004 UT 18, ¶ 12, 89 P.3d 131 (quoting MacKay v. Hardy, 973 P.2d 941, 947-48 (Utah 1998)). Rule 24 of the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure contains unambiguous requirements for a brief's organization and contents. Failure to adhere to these requirements "`increase[s] the costs of litigation for both parties and unduly burden[s] the judiciary's time and energy.'" Id. (quoting MacKay, 973 P.2d at 949). Failure to adhere to the requirements may invite the court to impose serious consequences, such as disregarding or striking the briefs, or assessing attorney fees against the offending lawyer. Utah R.App. P. 24(j).

¶ 12 In this case, Green has failed to comply with the requirements of rule 24. Green's table of authorities lacks "references to the pages of the brief where [the authorities] are cited," Utah R.App. P. 24(a)(3), and Green does not articulate the applicable standards of appellate review for each of the issues raised as required by rule 24(a)(5). Green also fails to provide either a "citation to the record showing that [each] issue was preserved in the trial court" or "a statement of grounds for seeking review of an issue not preserved in the trial court." Utah R.App. P. 24(a)(5)(A), (B). In addition, Green's citations to the record are selective in contravention of rule 24(a)(7), which provides that "[a]ll statements of fact and references to the proceedings below shall be supported by citations to the record."

¶ 13 Green's most egregious deficiency is his failure to adequately brief the majority of the arguments that he raises on appeal. Rule 24(a)(9) states that an appellant's brief "shall contain the contentions and reasons of the appellant with respect to the issues presented... with citations to the authorities, statutes, and parts of the record relied on." "Implicitly, rule 24(a)(9) requires not just bald citation to authority but development of that authority and reasoned analysis based on that authority." State v. Thomas, 961 P.2d 299, 305 (Utah 1998). As we have noted many times before, "this court is not a depository in which the appealing party may dump the burden of argument and research." State v. Gamblin, 2000 UT 44, ¶ 6, 1 P.3d 1108 (quotations and citations omitted).

¶ 14 Taking a shotgun approach to his appeal, Green's brief identifies thirty-nine separate issues for our review. The "argument" for eight of these issues consists of nothing more than a heading and the statement "[t]his issue will not be briefed at this time." For another three issues, the argument consists merely of a heading and a reference to another part of the brief. Many of Green's remaining issues receive only one paragraph of argument or argument that recites facts and states a desired outcome, but is devoid of authority to explain the legal basis for the desired outcome. In those rare instances where Green does cite authority, he fails to provide any pinpoint citations that would assist the court in locating the relevant statements or holdings claimed to be supportive of his position.

¶ 15 "It is well established that a reviewing court will not address arguments that are not adequately briefed." Thomas, 961 P.2d at 304. Consequently, we will restrict our review of this case to those issues to which Green has devoted sufficient attention for us to conduct an informed, meaningful analysis. Only three of Green's arguments on appeal meet this standard. They consist of Green's claims that (1) Utah's bigamy statute violates his federal constitutional right to free exercise of religion; (2) Utah's bigamy statute is unconstitutionally vague in light of Green's conduct; and (3) the State's use of Utah's unsolemnized marriage statute to establish a legal marriage between Green and Linda Kunz was improper. We will review each of these claims in turn.


¶ 16 Utah's bigamy statute provides, in relevant part, as follows:

A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports

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