Utah Supreme Court to stay 2 FLDS cases pending decision by appeals court

Published: Thursday, June 16 2011 11:33 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court will not rule on two cases involving the trust of a Utah-based polygamous sect until the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals resolves a dispute between the state and federal judges presiding over the case.

In an order released Thursday, Associate Chief Justice Matthew Durrant said the court will stay two separate matters involving the Fundamentalist LDS Church until a decision is issued by the Denver-based appeals court.

The ongoing rift between U.S. District Judge Dee Benson and 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg began in February when Benson issued a ruling calling state action to oversee the United Effort Plan Trust a "virtual takeover" that was totally unconstitutional.

Benson issued an injunction ordering that the church's assets be returned to FLDS leaders and prohibiting any further action by the state-appointed special fiduciary when it came to management of the trust.

Lindberg responded by ordering that the special fiduciary maintain control over the trust's assets, but agreed that no action should be taken until the issue is resolved. Lindberg then appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to halt implementation of Benson's order.

The appeals court issued an indefinite stay on Benson's order until it can resolve the case, finding there could be a "threat of irreparable harm" if it did not grant Lindberg's request.

The UEP was created by the FLDS Church in 1942 on the concept of a "united order," allowing followers to share in its assets. The trust holds most of the property and homes in the twin FLDS communities located in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The church also holds property in Bountiful, British Columbia, and Eldorado, Texas.

Utah's state courts seized control of the trust in 2005 amid allegations of mismanagement by church leaders, including Warren Jeffs, the newly reinstated head of the church who is currently in jail in Texas, pending trial on charges of bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault.

The trust is worth approximately $110 million.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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