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Appeals Court: CPS Wrong to Seize Children from Compound

By BJ Austin

Dallas, TX – Outside the courthouse in San Angelo, site of the largest child custody case in state history, Cynthia Martinez, with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, cheered the Appeals Court ruling.

Martinez: "that CPS had absolutely no evidence, and that they acted irrationally. And it says that just because these families belonged to a particular belief system does not mean that these children here in danger at all. This is just a huge ray of hope for them that these families are going to be reunited as quickly as possible."

Texas RioGrande and Legal Aid of North Texas filed appeals involving 96 of the polygamist sect's 140 mothers. Martinez says no one is sure WHEN any reunions may take place. In Dallas, Brad LaMoregese, whose family law firm represents some of the children, says the court does not specifically order their return.

LaMorgese: "We can read between the lines and see that if this goes back to the trial court that the court would be under a duty to vacate the temporary orders and return the kids."

He says for that reason, he expects Child Protective Services to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court for a stay to put the Court of Appeals Order on hold. Patrick Crimmons, with CPS, would only say their lawyers are studying the options.

Crimmons: "We are trying to assess the impact this may have on our case, and what our next steps may be."

Betsy Branch, family law attorney representing four of the children, says the Appeals Court made the right decision - ruling that grounds for removing the children were legally and factually insufficient.

Branch: "I heard very nebulous concepts of speculative abuse, but they could not point to any single child and identify any specific abuse by a specific abuser."

The next step depends on whether the state appeals.