Constitutional Law

Texas to Appeal Decision Calling for Return of 468 FLDS Kids to Parents

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Told by an appellate court yesterday that government officials illegally removed up to 468 children from the custody of parents living at a ranch run by a fundamentalist religious group, Texas will now appeal that ruling to the state’s highest court.

The State Department of Family and Protective Services plans to seek an emergency stay of the appellate ruling, a spokesman for the Texas Supreme Court tells the New York Times.

Although the decision yesterday technically applied only to 38 of the children removed from the Yearning for Zion ranch last month, as a practical matter it applied to all of them because the court’s reasoning clearly should be the same for all of their cases, the newspaper reports.

State officials said all 468 of the children found at the ranch operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints were at risk because the group promotes polygamy and marriages of teenage girls to much older men. However, there was little specific evidence of such practices and no evidence that the children were in danger of the kind of physical injury that is required to remove them from their parents on an emergency basis without litigating the issue, the appeals court found. It also said state officials apparently made no effort to determine whether a less sweeping and aggressive approach could safeguard the children.

Yesterday’s decision is discussed in detail in an earlier post.

Although state officials said in a press release yesterday, after the decision was announced, that they were doing their duty by trying to safeguard children from sexual abuse, it is very unusual for an appeals court to intervene in this manner, Jim Cohen, a Fordham University law professor, tells the Times. “It showed the proof was really weak, not a close call at all.”

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