Dec. 30–A polygamous sect is asking the Utah Supreme Court for emergency relief after a lower court judge ordered documents sealed in a property trust dispute and refused to hear sect members’ objections to the sale of trust assets.
In a petition filed Monday, attorneys for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ask for a stay of all proceedings and orders in the United Effort Plan Trust case and request a schedule be set to hear claims that members’ religious rights have been violated in the court-sanctioned reformation and management of the trust.
The trust, set up in 1942, holds virtually all property in Hildale, Utah; Colorado City, Ariz.; and Bountiful, British Columbia. Third District Judge Denise Lindberg has directed the case since 2005, when the trust was taken away from sect control amid allegations of mismanagement.
Orders that the sect wants stayed include rulings that authorized the sale of Berry Knoll Farm, sealed filings related to the trust’s future and barred sect members from joining the trust case.
The petition, filed by Stephen C. Clark, also asks that an option to repurchase “irreplaceable” dairy cows, set to expire on Dec. 31, be extended indefinitely. Fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan, who manages the trust, sold the heifers earlier this year.
Without a stay, the sect risks “immediate irreparable harm by the loss of unique trust property” designed to meet beneficiaries’ needs, the petition states.
The reformed trust and its secular management also make it impossible for FLDS members to exercise a central tenet of their religion: organizing their lives in a communal “Holy United Order.”
The sect filed a similar petition in October but says emergency action is needed now because of recent directives that “escalate [the court’s] arbitrary and capricious abuse of discretion.”
That includes an order entered by Lindberg on Dec. 24 that seals filings related to the trust’s future, which was made with no notice, hearing or findings and deprives the sect and public from knowing what is happening in the case, the petition says.
Fiduciary fires back
A fiduciary who oversees a polygamous sect’s property trust is asking a Utah judge to hold sect leader Warren S. Jeffs, a dozen sect members, FLDS firms and the community’s local governments in contempt for trying to intervene in the 4-year-old court case.
Bruce R. Wisan also wants the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, its representatives and members barred from its “continued blitzkrieg” of legal filings “without the Court’s permission.”
In a court filing, Wisan’s attorney describes the attempts to join the case “a watershed event.” But those FLDS leaders and others failed to comply with court orders to turn over financial records related to the United Effort Plan Trust, the document says. By filing to intervene in the case and stop such trust actions as the sale of a historic farm, they also violated a stand down in litigation ordered by 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg in November 2008, it says.
The filing names the church’s corporate business entity and states that Jeffs heads the entity. However, Jeffs resigned from that position in 2007.
Wisan said the FLDS’ refusal to work with him, by Jeffs’ orders, has added to his expense and been “crippling” to the trust’s management. The fiduciary asks Lindberg to order the former trustees who now want to join the case to turn over documents, accountings and records he maintains will “conclusively establish a record of the former trustees’ abandonment of the trust and subsequent efforts to completely frustrate the fiduciary in his court-appointed duties.”
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