Monday, August 30, 2010

Utah High Court Says FLDS Challenge To Trust Reformation Barred By Laches and Ripeness Doctrines

The Utah Supreme Court on Friday rejected an attempt by members of the FLDS Church to challenge a Utah trial court's long-running efforts (see prior posting) to reform the United Effort Plan Trust that holds property on which FLDS members lived in Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. In Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Lindberg, (UT Sup. Ct., Aug. 27, 2010), the Court held that by delaying its objections for three years, the FLDS had waited too long to bring most of its challenges. They are barred by the doctrine of laches. The association of FLDS members that brought suit claimed that the reformation of the trust violated state law and members' constitutional rights, and that the trial court's ongoing administration of the trust also violated their constitutional rights. The only claim that was not barred by laches was a claim that "the district court endorsed a religious test that would give former FLDS members outright deeds to Trust property but would relegate current and practicing FLDS members to receiving spendthrift trusts based on the concern that they might deed their property back to FLDS Church leaders." The Court concluded that this free exercise challenge is not ripe since so far neither the trial court nor the special fiduciary administering the trust has used religion as a factor in determining how to allocate property. The Idaho State Journal reports on the decision.

For those who are following the lengthy developments in Utah's attempt to reform the UEP Trust, the opinion includes an excellent chronology of events.