Judge rules attorney can't flip sides

Rod Parker, who represented FLDS in its communal property fight, can't help group sue trust

The Salt Lake Tribune/October 9, 2008

An attorney who represented a polygamous sect for 17 years in various court battles over its communal property trust cannot switch sides and now represent members who want to sue the trust, a Utah judge ruled Wednesday.

Third District Judge Denise Lindberg disqualified Rod Parker and his law firm, Snow, Christensen & Martineau, from representing or consulting on actions brought against the United Effort Plan Trust.

The judge also set a Nov. 14 hearing in St. George on the trust's proposed sale of the Berry Knoll Farm, giving sect members an opportunity to protest loss of property they consider sacred.

Regarding Parker, Lindberg said it would be inappropriate for him to use information gained as counsel against the trust, which holds virtually all property in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

The trust was set up by the members of the group now known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The trust has been under court management since May 2005, when Lindberg appointed Bruce R. Wisan to oversee it.

Parker said later he was not sure how the ruling would impact participation in other lawsuits related to the trust, including a civil rights suit just filed in U.S. District Court.

Attorney Richard Van Wagoner, who represented Parker in the Wednesday hearing, said he will appeal Lindberg's decision. He also plans to appeal the judge's order requiring Parker and R. Scott Berry, who also represented the FLDS church, to turn over documents related to the trust to Wisan.

Lindberg said Wisan is entitled to see documents related to the trust's past management.

Three sect members sought a restraining order to prevent sale of the 711-acre farm until Lindberg reviewed it and requested hearings on future sales, too.

Attorney Jim Bradshaw said it was "remarkable" that Wisan wanted to block the people he was appointed to protect from being heard. He said the sale was being driven by the trust's cash crunch without regard to the property's importance to the community.

Attorney Jeff Shields, who represents Wisan, said the trust will "blow up if we don't get some money into it" and disputed the property's significance. He said a prospective buyer wants to build a housing development there.

Lindberg agreed to let sect members voice opinions on the sale, but said the beneficiaries do not have standing to bring actions over management of the trust.

More cases dismissed

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said cases involving seven FLDS children were dismissed Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases now dropped to 315. That count includes 26 disputed minors. DFPS later conceded they were adults. The state took 439 children into custody in April after raiding the

Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado. The ranch is home to members of the FLDS church. The children were returned to their parents in June but remain under DFPS supervision until their cases are nonsuited.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.