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Utah Supreme Court re-hears polygamy trust cases

•  State Bar News     updated  2011/04/13 12:23


The Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday wrestled with the issue of who has the final say over state law as part of a long-running battle for control of a communal land trust tied to Warren Jeffs' polygamous church.

The question comes on the heels of a February federal court ruling, which found that the state of Utah violated the religious rights of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when it took over the church's land trust in 2005.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Dee Benson could undo some six years of decisions by a state judge.

Attorneys for the FLDS believe the ruling should stand, while other parties dispute the right of a federal judge to meddle with a state judge's decision and to essentially override state law.

"Somebody's got to sort this out," said Utah Justice Thomas R. Lee, noting that Benson's decision leaves the high court wondering which iteration of the trust is in place and which trust managers are in control.

Valued at more than $114 million, the United Effort Plan Trust holds most of the land and homes of church members in Hildale, Utah, Colorado City, Ariz., and Bountiful, British Columbia. The Utah courts seized control of the trust in 2005 amid allegations of mismanagement by Jeffs and other church leaders.


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