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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A juvenile court judge was right to return the children of a well-known polygamist to their mother's care after a custody battle with the state, the Utah Supreme Court said Friday.
Justices said 3rd District Court Judge Elizabeth Lindsley only erred in not allowing expert testimony from a child psychologist during custody hearings. Lindsley barred the testimony because Kristin Brewer, director of the Guardian as Litem's office failed to give adequate notice that they planned to call psychologist Doug Goldsmith as a witness.
But in an unanimous decision, justice said the error was "harmless," because it did not violate the children's due process rights and because Goldsmith had testified at previous hearings.
Brewer declined comment on the ruling Friday, as did Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Nichols, who represented the state.
Mattingly said she was delighted by the ruling.
"I'm pleased, too, with the fact that they ruled on the issue itself" whether the judge erred in sending the children home "rather than just saying it wasn't timely for the (Office of the Guardian ad Litem) to appeal it," she said.
The state's custody battle over the children of Heidi Mattingly and polygamist John Daniel Kingston began in 2004, after a dispute between the parents and their two eldest daughters, who had pierced their ears without permission.
The girls were removed from the home, sparking allegations of child abuse that led to the removal of eight other children several months later.
Two boys were returned to Mattingly after six months. Six other children were returned in August 2005. Mattingly and Kingston, who have a total of 11 children, voluntarily relinquished their parental rights to the two oldest girls, now 15 and 18.
Lindsley closed the case in December. She took over the case in June 2005 when Judge Andrew Valdez recused himself after death threats and an altercation between his son and Kingston supporters during a protest outside a downtown courthouse.
Kingston and Mattingly are not legally married. In court, Kingston claims to be legally married to Rachel Ann Kingston, with whom he has 12 children. He is believed to have more than 100 children with 13 other women.
The Kingston clan are leaders of secretive fundamentalist religious sect in the Salt Lake valley which practices polygamy. The group owns nearly 100 Utah businesses, ranging from ranches and dairies to the restaurant supply companies.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)