Ex-FLDS members sue Warren Jeffs, law firm over underage marriages

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SALT LAKE CITY — More than a dozen former members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church have leveled a lawsuit against polygamist leader Warren Jeffs and the former law firm that represented him, accusing former lawyers of the church of helping him maintain his power.

In the lawsuit filed in federal court, the ex-members accuse Jeffs of working in concert with the Salt Lake City-based firm of Snow, Christensen & Martineau and attorney Rod Parker to further child-bride marriages, the breakup of families and child labor. Parker was the lawyer for the FLDS Church for years and at times acted as its spokesman.

FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and some of his wives, in this image provided to FOX 13. (Faces blurred to protect any alleged sex crimes victims.)

FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and some of his wives, in this image provided to FOX 13. (Faces blurred to protect any alleged sex crimes victims.)

“In order to secure the unwavering obedience of thousands of FLDS in the evolving program of forced labor, forced sexual servitude, extortionate taking of property and disintegration of family units (which was itself a key ingredient in the plan), Jeffs employed age-old control mechanisms that have, throughout history, proven to be key ingredients in the domination of entire populations and the infusion of cultural beliefs that result in the sublimation of individual morals and ethics and society-wide acceptance of monstrous and inhuman practices as ordered by an all-powerful tyrant operating under the guise of divine right,” the lawsuit claims.

The 121-page lawsuit lays a long list of alleged grievances by ex-FLDS members at the feet of the law firm. It accuses the firm and Parker of being aware of potentially illegal activity, and conspiring with Jeffs to continue underage “marriages.” It does not name the church itself as a defendant. The ex-members claim the firm was paid millions in legal fees from the efforts of child labor.

FLDS leader Warren Jeffs in a 2014 deposition from the Texas prison where he is serving a life sentence.

FLDS leader Warren Jeffs in a 2014 deposition from the Texas prison where he is serving a life sentence.

“Children were not the only victims of the scheme and ongoing enterprise created by Jeffs, Parker and SC&M. Similar commandments were issued to girls and women, who were then ‘reassigned’ to other men as wives under pain of expulsion from the FLDS Church. Parents of young girls who were summoned to be married by Jeffs faced a similar threat,” the lawsuit states.

When contacted by FOX 13, Parker referred comments to outside council. Snow, Christensen & Martineau sent a statement:

“A lawyers representation of a client is not an endorsement of a clients political, economic, social, moral views, or activities. Without this fundamental principle there could be no First Amendment rights for those with views outside the main stream. There could be no civil rights for the unpopular or those accused of crimes.

Snow Christensen & Martineaus representation of the FLDS Church falls within these principles, and we are proud of our defense of religious freedom. None of our lawyers have ever been members of the FLDS Church, or espoused its beliefs or practices. Our work in protecting religious liberties and other civil rights of the FLDS was not an endorsement of or complicity in illegal behavior.

We are confident in our ability to defend against these meritless claims.”

Brent Hatch, who is acting as counsel for SC&M, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and blasted the claims as “lacking in merit.”

“Ultimately, while the Complaint provides long allegations about the FLDS Church and the wrongs allegedly perpetuated by its leaders, the Complaint fails to link those alleged actions to any legally culpable conduct of SCM,” he wrote.

Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage “marriages.” As FOX 13 reported in November, he has been deposed in ongoing litigation leveled against him and the FLDS Church.

Read the lawsuit here:

Read the motion to dismiss here: