Feds oppose FLDS leaders’ efforts to fire their lawyers

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Lyle Jeffs (left) enters the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City last year. (FOX 13 file photo)

SALT LAKE CITY — In a new filing in federal court, lawyers for the U.S. Department of Labor oppose efforts by two brothers of imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs to fire their lawyers.

The Labor Department accused Lyle Jeffs and his brother, Nephi, of further trying to delay the child labor case they are investigating.

“Counsel’s request to stay existing orders from the Court is baseless, unwarranted, and prejudicial to Petitioner [the Labor Department],” they wrote.

Earlier this month, the attorneys for the Jeffs brothers withdrew as counsel, saying their clients wanted “to insure the full protection of their interests relative to the important and crucial matters of constitutional magnitude that have been raised before this Court.”

The Labor Department claims it means the Jeffs brothers would not have to comply with an order to hand over religious documents to the judge overseeing the case. The deadline has already passed, the feds said in their arguments.

A federal judge ruled in January that Lyle and Nephi Jeffs did not have to answer certain questions from Labor Department lawyers, citing their religious freedom rights. However, the judge did ask them to turn over religious documents that explain why they cannot speak about the inner workings of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

The situation stems from a 2012 incident in Hurricane where hundreds of FLDS children were seen picking pecans at a farm. The federal government is going after members of the Utah-based polygamous church for child labor violations, alleging the children were plucked from school and put to work.

Previously, a federal judge has said other FLDS members do not have to answer certain questions from the Labor Department citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the “Hobby Lobby” case.