SAN ANGELO, Texas — When it comes to cases involving members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, it's become apparent there is no such thing as a simple court hearing.

What was supposed to be a brief hearing Wednesday on a restraining order involving church members quickly turned into a much longer dispute over who can represent the mother of a 17-year-old girl in court. The hearing continues today.

"It's just a big circus," said Annette Jeffs, who is apparently seeking to replace her San Angelo-based attorney, Tim Edwards, with Dallas-area lawyer Laura Shockley.

Texas 51st District Judge Barbara Walther had pen to paper, ready to sign an agreement extending a restraining order involving FLDS member and spokesman Willie Jessop, when lawyers for Child Protective Services objected to Shockley representing Jeffs.

"Ms. Shockley has a conflict. She has represented children in the past," said CPS attorney Jeff Schmidt, referring to the ongoing massive custody case here.

"How does the department have a right to object to who she represents?" Walther asked.

"She represented minor children of a sister-wife of Annette Jeffs," Schmidt replied.

Shockley said she had represented a child, as well as two "disputed minors," who CPS initially believed were children but later conceded were adults. Another attorney later took the case involving the child. Shockley said she never received any information about her child client — whom she saw once when he was at the San Angelo Coliseum shortly after the raid.

"Any information he thinks I may have, I don't have," she told the judge.

The judge called a recess to have clerks compile a list of clients Shockley was appointed to represent. The names that came back apparently surprised even her.

"I don't know this child," she told attorneys in court.

Walther refused to consider replacing attorneys until CPS filed a formal motion, which is expected to be heard today.

Meanwhile, the court-appointed lawyer for 17-year-old Teresa Jeffs got a restraining order preventing Willie Jessop from having contact with her client extended — with no end date.

"It stays in effect while the case is pending," Natalie Malonis said.

All sides agreed to it. The order technically says Annette Jeffs must keep her daughter from having any contact with Jessop and vice-versa. Malonis accused Jessop of trying to coerce Teresa Jeffs into trying to avoid a grand jury subpoena and accused church members of interfering in her relationship with her client.


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com