SALT LAKE CITY — A judge has quashed a deposition subpoena of the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in connection with a series of lawsuits alleging sex abuse in a church-run program on the Navajo Nation.
Court records show that in a hearing earlier this week, Third District Court Judge Su Chon rejected a subpoena to make LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson sit for a deposition. She allowed the church to appoint a representative to give testimony instead.
“The depositions of lower level corporate representatives or officers should be noticed prior to any deposition of President Monson,” Judge Chon’s order states.
“The Court hereby quashes Plaintiffs’ Subpoena Duces Tecum and orders that Plaintiffs are precluded from deposing President Monson or obtaining the documents sought by way of the Subpoena at this time.”
In previous court filings, the LDS Church said it would resist efforts to depose President Monson, noting he “is 89 years old and, as can be seen from his few public appearances, he is in guarded health and manifesting the effects of his age.”
The LDS Church has said in court filings that President Monson has no unique knowledge of the program or the plaintiffs.
“The only connection President Monson has to the case is that he happened to be a senior leader of the LDS Church during the time period Plaintiffs allege they were abused,” LDS Church attorney David Jordan wrote in a court filing asking the subpoena be quashed.
Lawyers representing five people suing the LDS Church alleging sex abuse during the 1960s and ’70s while participating in a church-run program for Navajo children had sought to depose the leader of the Mormon faith. They argued that as a general authority at the time, he would have information on the inner workings of the program.
The alleged victims claim that as children they were part of the LDS Church’s “Lamanite Placement Program” (also known as the “Indian Student Placement Program”). They claim in their lawsuits they were taken out of their homes, baptized into the Mormon faith and then placed with host families in Utah. In some lawsuits, the plaintiffs have claimed that they disclosed sexual abuse to people within the church, but little or nothing was done about it.
A federal judge ordered the abuse lawsuits heard in Navajo Nation Court. Plaintiff’s attorney Craig Vernon said in an email to FOX 13 that another subpoena of the LDS Church leader is still being litigated in that court system.