Fourth District Judge George E. Ballif has taken under advisement a request to move from Utah County a hearing for Gay Lyn Hadfield, who faces contempt-of-court charges for refusing to take her children to a court-appointed therapist.
Sharon Donovan, Hadfield's attorney, argued Friday that her client would be unable to get a fair hearing in Utah County on the contempt charge."I'm really concerned about this particular case in this particular county," Donovan said. "The public is going to perceive something is going wrong here."
Donovan said Gay Hadfield, ex-wife of convicted child sexual abuser Allan B. Hadfield, would be unable to get an impartial hearing before any 4th District judge because of ongoing media coverage and public discussion of the Hadfield case in the county.
In a highly publicized trial held in December 1987 before 4th District Judge Cullen Y. Christensen, Hadfield was convicted of sodomizing and sexually abusing his son and daughter. He spent six months in jail on the conviction and is now undergoing court-appointed treatment for child sex abusers.
Donovan said a clash between 4th District judges and the attorney general's office also could bias a local judge's ruling in the contempt hearing.
"Therefore, what you're really saying is I am biased and I am prejudiced," Ballif said in response to Donovan's request. "You are saying it in the approach you're taking."
He said he would take under advisement the request, but Ballif encouraged Donovan to file an "affidavit of prejudice," citing her perceived bias so a legal determination could be made.
"I need some legal authority for that," he said. "My concern is the law and what the law provides."
Ballif said he would just as soon be done with the case, but that the 4th District Court "would be tarnished somewhat" if it shirked its responsibility to proceed.
Donovan said she hoped to avoid filing the affidavit because she didn't want to alienate Ballif. "I will not take it personally," Ballif told her.
Richard Nemelka, attorney for Allan Hadfield, objected to having the contempt-of-court hearing moved from Utah County. Nemelka told Ballif the local district court had "bent over backward" to be impartial and that a change of venue would require time for a new judge to acquaint himself with the case.
Donovan argued that it wouldn't take another judge long to familiarize himself with the case.
"There is absolutely no basis to change venue" or file an affidavit of prejudice, Nemelka said. "We can handle it best here. As far as a change of venue, I don't think it accomplishes anything at all."
What's most important, Nemelka said, is getting the Hadfield children the counseling they need.
Ironically, because of the contempt charges filed against their mother, the Hadfield children haven't received psychiatric therapy for several months.
Because Gay Hadfield has moved with her children from Lehi to Heber City, Donovan said, it would be more convenient for them and other witnesses if the hearing were transferred to Summit or Salt Lake counties.
In the Hadfields' divorce decree in February 1987, 4th District Judge Ray M. Harding ordered Gay Hadfield to take her children to Dr. Lynn Scoresby, a Provo psychologist. Ballif upheld that ruling upon taking over the case from Harding.
Gay Hadfield, however, said she didn't feel her children would receive adequate treatment from Scoresby because he interviewed them in their father's presence. Scoresby was also a witness for the defense in Allan Hadfield's trial.
As a result, she began taking her children to a Salt Lake psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Whitehead, for supportive therapy in preparation for testifying against their father.