FLDS lose in court twice in a day

The Salt Lake Tribune/January 29, 2013

Two relatively minor decisions were issued in polygamy-related legal cases Tuesday, giving a man access to his own land and preventing FLDS bishops from intervening in the administration of the United Effort Plan.

The first decision was issued in St. George and grants Richard Holm access to a piece of land in Hildale. According to his attorney Benjamin Ruesch, Holm purchased the land in 2006 from the United Effort Plan - which controls the FLDS church's land and was taken over by the state in 2005.

However, Holm was challenged by the city of Hildale as well as Wayne Jessop and Kelly Fischer, both members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Holm previously resolved his disputes with the city and with Jessop. According to Ruesch, Fischer failed to respond to the case and didn't show up to a hearing Tuesday. As a result, the judge ruled that Holm could take possession of the land.

Holm did not immediately eturn calls seeking comment, but Ruesch described him as pleased with the decision.

"He's definitely elated. He's ecstatic," Ruesch said.

Bruce Wisan, who was appointed by the state to manage the trust, said Holm's case wouldn't have an impact on broader efforts to distribute assets.

But Wisan did say he was happy about a decision issued by the Utah Supreme Court.

The unanimous decision states that members of the FLDS church can't intervene in the administration of the trust. In December 2010, lawyers representing FLDS Church members asked to be able to intervene in the case after they argued that Wisan shouldn't be able to sell the Berry Knoll Farm. The farm - which has never been sold - is owned by the trust and the FLDS lawyers argued that it was a site of religious significance.

"This was an effort by bishops and other members of the FLDS church and the FLDS organization to try to intervene in the trust proceedings," Utah Solicitor General Bridget Romano said.

Wisan and the states of Utah and Arizona disagreed with FLDS members' position, saying they didn't have legal standing in court.

The supreme court decision states that the FLDS members can't intervene. According to Jeffery Shields, Wisan's attorney, the ruling upholds a lower court decision that denied standing to the FLDS members.

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