Firm for FLDS Seeks to Withdraw from Lawsuit

Firm for FLDS Seeks to Withdraw from Lawsuit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A law firm that has long represented a southern Utah polygamous sect is seeking to withdraw as its counsel in two lawsuits.

In court documents filed Thursday in 3rd District Court, lawyers for the Salt Lake City-based firm Snow, Christensen and Martineau said the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints "insist(s) upon a course of conduct with which their lawyers have a fundamental disagreement."

The two cases involve the FLDS church and its reclusive president, Warren Jeffs, and Sam Barlow, a former marshal in the FLDS town of Colorado City, Ariz. Also named is the United Effort Plan Trust, the sect's charitable entity that owns most of the land in the polygamous twin cities of Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz.

One case alleges that Jeffs and other male leaders banish young men from their homes so they can marry more young brides. The FLDS church preaches polygamy as a central tenet and faithful FLDS men often have three or more wives who each bear numerous children.

Warren Jeffs' whereabouts are unknown to most outside his closed community, whose members are told not to speak to reporters. His compound in Hildale is surrounded by a 10-foot wall.

In the second suit, Brent Jeffs accuses his three uncles -- Warren, Blaine and Leslie Jeffs -- of sexually assaulting him years ago when he was a child. Brent Jeffs claims the three told him the actions were a way to make him a man, and the church and its leaders knew of the abuse but did nothing to stop it.

Both cases seek a jury trial with unspecified damages.

Also filed on Thursday was a motion to require the plaintiffs in both cases to notify the Utah Attorney General and all persons living on land owned by the trust of any pending default judgments that could arise against the defendants.

FLDS members living on UEP land, which includes nearly all of the 7,000 people in Hildale and Colorado City, do not own their homes or property and are considered tenants at will by the sect.

In recent years, several disaffected church members have sued to retain possession of their homes built on UEP land. They argued that the UEP would be "unjustly enriched" if the FLDS church were allowed to evict them without fair compensation, and a judge agreed, although appeals have been filed.

The motion to withdraw does not affect the firm's commitment in other pending court cases involving the FLDS church or the UEP.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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