Utah AG appeals $5 million bill in FLDS land battle
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday March 7, 2012
Religion News Blog — The Utah Attorney General has asked the state supreme court to block a $5 million bill from an accountant appointed to oversee the United Effort Plan, the real-estate holdings arm of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
In a filing Tuesday, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s office argued that forcing them to foot the bill for the court-appointed special fiduciary “intrudes on a pure legislative function and therefore constitutes an invalid exercise of the district court’s judicial authority.”
“That ruling violates the state constitutional separation of powers doctrine, and it also creates a condition – by demanding payment in a time and under terms – for which it is impossible for Utah’s AG to comply,” Utah Solicitor General Bridget Romano wrote in the petition to the Utah Supreme Court.
Besides, the attorney general’s office argued, they do not readily have the $5 million to pay the bill.
The Utah courts seized control of the United Effort Plan property trust in 2005 amid allegations by state attorneys that Jeffs and other faith leaders had mismanaged its assets.
Bruce Wisan was appointed by the courts to manage the trust. Wisan was to be paid from the UEP’s assets, but FLDS members object to his management and have mostly refused to pay court-ordered monthly occupancy fees for living in their homes.
FLDS followers maintain the court-ordered reorganization of their property trustviolated their constitutional rights to religious freedom, and they have sued to reverse the changes or regain control of the trust.
But in August, 2010 the Utah Supreme Court on Friday said a polygamous sect waited too long to object to a state takeover of its historic property trust, rejecting its bid to undo changes made to the United Effort Plan Trust.
In her Polygamy Blog at the Salt Lake Tribune, Lindsay Whitehurst points out the court made its decision “because the FLDS waited too long to sue, not because they decided the sect was wrong. When they could have waded more deeply into the case on the state’s side last year, they demurred.”
Lacking cash, Wisan has proposed selling off trust land, but those sales have been blocked by state and federal court lawsuits.
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