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Legal News: Law Blog - WSJ.com
Texas Court Rules Sect Children Were Improperly Seized
By Ashby Jones
The Yearning for Zion Ranch, part of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, got a big dose of good news earlier today when a Texas state court of appeals ruled that the state of Texas had no right to seize more than 400 children from its compound in April. Here are reports from the NYT, the Houston Chronicle, Reuters and the AP. Click here for a copy of the ruling. Click here and here for NYT and AP stories on the initial removal of the children.
According to the ruling, in order for the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services Texas Family Code to justify the removal of children from their homes, it must demonstrate (1) that there was a danger to the physical health or safety of their children, (2) that there was an urgent need for protection of the children that required the immediate removal of the children from their parents, or (3) that the Department made reasonable efforts to eliminate or prevent the children’s removal from their parents.
The court ruled that while the Department had presented evidence that the children had been subjected to a “pervasive belief system” that encouraged sexual activity and child-bearing shortly after puberty, the court held that the Department did not present any evidence of danger to the physical health or safety of any male children or any female children who had not reached puberty. The court also ruled that the Department “failed to offer any evidence that any of the pubescent female children of the Relators were in . . . physical danger.”
At news conference in San Angelo, the closest city to Eldorado, a lawyer for the sect said it was unclear when the families would be reunited.
The court action on Thursday followed a writ of mandamus filed by the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid group the largest provider of legal aid in the state and 48 mothers from the sect who were representing their children. Were extremely happy with the ruling, Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid group, told the Chronicle.
Lawyers for the state did not immediately respond to the ruling.
Photo: Associated Press
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