SAN ANGELO, Texas More lawyers for children taken in the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch are taking Texas Child Protective Services back to court to force the agency to hand over evidence of abuse.
Hearings are scheduled here next week seeking discovery in cases involving at least 30 children.
"We need to take depositions and make document requests," said Andrea Sloan, an Austin attorney representing some FLDS children. "We need to start treating this case like every other case."
During a hearing earlier this month, CPS attorneys asked for a "mulligan" when it came to discovery. They said they did not intentionally deny the evidence to lawyers for FLDS parents and children but were caught up in an overwhelmingly large caseload.
The judge handling the largest child custody case in U.S. history suspended formal discovery in July until a proper plan to provide it could be put in place. Since then, numerous court orders have been filed providing the lawyers with evidence.
"Upon request of a parent or ad litem, in a reasonable time and place, CPS shall make available for review all videos, audios, photographs relevant to the case," reads an order signed by Texas 51st District Judge Barbara Walther and obtained by the Deseret News.
Approximately 439 children were placed in state protective custody when CPS caseworkers and law enforcement responded to the YFZ Ranch on a phone call alleging abuse. The children were returned to their families two months later when two Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly.
As the custody case drags on, CPS has "nonsuited" 300 children, including some who are scheduled to have hearings next week.
"Most of our cases have been nonsuited," said Cynthia Martinez with the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Society, which took CPS to court and obtained some of the first discovery.
Of the group's 48 clients, only seven still remain under court jurisdiction.
"Nonsuiting means that CPS agrees these families are providing good households for these children," Martinez said.
Review hearings on the cases still pending will likely be held in January, court clerks said.
Like other attorneys contacted by the Deseret News, Sloan said she is trying to negotiate with CPS to avoid having to go back to court to force the issue.
"They've basically dismissed 75 percent of this case," she said. "Now that they're down to a manageable bucket for an agency the size they are, they need to get back to following the rules."
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