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Quote of the Day - Man is a natural polygamist: he always has one woman leading him by the nose, and another hanging on to his coattails. - Henry Louis Mencken

Who's On First? The Polygamous Mess In A Texas Courtroom

The problem may be polyamorous, polygamous and polynumerous, but one court in San Angelo, Texas has got to sort it out, one by one, along with somewhere in the neighborhood of 416 lawyers, each representing a single child and with a guardian ad litem for each child.  As most anyone who reads or watches the news knows by now, the children were removed earlier this week from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ranch near El Dorado, Texas and placed into child protective services.

The problem(s) stem from allegations of physical, mental and sexual abuse of the children.

The court has set a (read that "a" as just one) hearing, and the Texas bar has requested volunteer lawyers from all over the state to appear pro bono to represent the children.  No one lawyer can represent them all or in any combination given the innumerable conflicts of interest. 

In fact, the parents need representation, too.  Perhaps a parent or two or 208 (if you assume two parents for each child), or more, depending on however you may calculate children born of polygamous marriages

Who's the Dad?  Who's the Mom?  Which child belongs to which Mom and which Dad?  Only your DNA tester will know for sure, especially since even the children have provided the authorities multiple names for themselves and identified multiple parents.  As if to compound the problem, the lawyers on their way to Coke County, where 51st District Court Judge Barbara Walther issued the warrant, don't even know who they're going to be representing. 

In the meantime, there may not be enough lawyers to go around, but more important, there may not be enough courtroom to go around.  Where do you put 416 lawyers, children, guardians and any number of parents who may appear? 

How about an auditorium?  Even then, what procedure do you follow?

Who speaks when?  Who goes first?  How long will the hearing take?  I can't imagine even the logistics of where to seat everyone and how to handle objections?  Since most, if not all of the children are underage, they're each entitled to their own privacy, so the court may not even be able to hold one mass hearing.

If that's the case, then where do you find 416 courtrooms?

One thing's for sure - the courts have to act in the best interest of the children, which is what the authorities who removed the children from the ranch thought they were doing.  The consequences of those actions, however, may overwhelm the courts and achieve just the opposite result:  justice delayed is justice denied.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on 4/16/2008 at 23:21 Comments (1)



Comments by Peter from United States on Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 11:32

The Texas authorities are really doing an astoundingly poor job at dealing with this situation. Like most people, I think that this particular religious sect is a little kooky, but that doesn't excuse the careless disregard for the rights of the sect's adherents. I confess that I have low expectations for adequate process in this case.


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