SALT LAKE CITY — A federal appeals court ruled Monday that a polygamist sect on the Utah-Arizona border waited too long to challenge a court-ordered takeover, clearing the way for state authorities to break up a church trust and sell assets including homes, businesses and farms in two small towns.
A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal judge in Salt Lake City, who ruled nearly two years ago that Utah’s takeover violated the constitutional rights of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson’s decision had frozen the sale of church assets in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., and put Utah’s takeover in limbo.
Utah seized control of the community trust in 2005 amid allegations of mismanagement by church officials, including now-jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs.
The appeals court panel didn’t rule on the constitutionality issue. Instead, it determined the FLDS waited too long — nearly three years — to take legal action.