Monday, June 23, 2008

FLDS Member Requests New Attorney

Most attorneys will tell you of experiences with court-appointed clients who abruptly demand new representation, whether warranted or not. However, it is not standard practice for these attorney-client disputes to get played out in front of the national media.

As the legal complexities surrounding the families at the FLDS ranch continue to unfold, a new subplot (OK, maybe a minor scene that would get cut in the final edit) is developing. Teresa Jeffs, the daughter of FLDS head honcho Warren Jeffs has informed the court that she no longer wishes to employ the services of her appointed attorney.

Ms. Jeffs is upset that her attorney, Natalie Malonis, has issued a restraining order against FLDS member and church spokesman Willie Jessop (pictured above). Malonis asserts that Mr. Jessop has been intimidating and coercing Teresa Jeffs as she prepares to give her testimony concerning possible abuse at the ranch and that she simply wants to protect the girl. Ms. Jeffs is steadfast in her statements that no illegal activity took place in the ranch and wrote in a letter to her attorney -- "Natalie, quit all your lying about everything … let me get a different lawyer."

Teresa Jeffs is only sixteen years old, so there may be a legitimate concern that she is not mature enough to make such an important legal decision. Judge Barbara Walther, who has gained personal notoriety through this case, will soon determine if the girl’s wish to release her attorney will be granted.

Is Ms. Jeffs being controlled by Willie Jessop, or is she correct in claiming that her attorney’s issuance of a restraining order was unwarranted? I’m not sure if it is possible to get a definitive answer. However, one point is clear -- anytime that minors are involved in legal matters, extra sensitivity is needed. At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who specialize in the unique circumstances involved with family law. Please let us know if we can be of service to you.

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