Constitutional Law

Texas Appeals Court to Hear Emergency Challenge in Polygamy Ranch Raid

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As Texas officials separated more than 100 mothers from their children in a controversial 462-child custody case concerning a religious sect that has advocates polygamy and teenage marriages, a state appeals court has agreed to hear a due-process challenge on an emergency basis. (The number of children said to be involved in the case keeps rising, and at last report had reached 462.)

Attorneys from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid representing 48 of their mothers filed a motion yesterday with the Third Court of Appeals in Austin, seeking to halt foster care placements, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. They (and some observers) contend that a massive two-day group custody hearing last week violated the parents’ constitutional right to due process. Mothers are now reportedly being separated from children aged 13 months and older, although claims of abuse have focused on teen girls in underage polygamous marriages.

By today, the appeals court had scheduled a hearing on April 29. However, that does not grant the members from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints what they really wanted—an emergency order stopping the state from separating mothers from their children, points out the Associated Press.

“These families have the right to have their voices heard in the legal process,” says attorney Robert Doggett, in a written statement. “The idea that these children can be taken away without giving their families the opportunity to address allegations and fight to stay together is absurd.”

And it’s not just parents who are being separated from the children, the Utah newspaper writes: “Attorney Emmet Fleming says he represents an FLDS child with special needs. He arrived at the coliseum today hoping to meet with her, but found the place locked up” and is now trying to figure out what happened to his client.

Additional coverage:

New York Times: “Children From Sect Are Dispersed by State”

San Antonio Express-News: “Editorial: Due process matters even in bizarre cases” “Child Protection v. the Constitution: Did Removal of 437 Kids Violate Parents’ Rights?” “Judge Orders DNA Testing of 416 Kids; Sect Reconsiders Sex With Minors” “Young Children Removed from Texas Ranch Not Abused, State’s Expert Says”

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