Constitutional Law

FLDS Children Interviewed By Police Without Legal Counsel, Attorney Says

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A lawyer for several of the approximately 465 children removed from a Texas ranch run by a religious sect that reportedly advocates polygamy says her clients and others throughout the state are being interviewed by authorities without their attorneys present.

While that apparently may be legal, as far as child welfare workers are concerned, it may be inappropriate in this case because of the close working relationship of child welfare workers and state police, a law professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio tells the Houston Chronicle.

Laura Shockley, who represents three young women from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints whose ages are disputed, says at least one of her clients was taken by child welfare workers to talk to state police even after she said she wanted her lawyer present.

”My client told the CPS worker that she did not want to talk to her without an attorney,” Shockley says. ”She was told that she wasn’t entitled to an attorney because it was a civil matter.”

As discussed in earlier posts, Texas authorities are treating the religious sect, which reportedly advocates polygamy, as a single family. They contend evidence of sexual abuse of underage girls by older men and banishment of some of the sect’s boys entitled them to remove all children last month from the Yearning for Zion ranch run by the FLDS. However, critics express concern about whether the sweeping approach taken by officials and en masse hearings violate sect members’ constitutional rights.

Related coverage:

Houston Chronicle: “Sect mom allowed to stay with all her children”

ABA “New Texas Rules for FLDS Moms May Distance Them from Their Faith”

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