The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has ruled that former members of a polygamous sect have provided enough evidence for parts of a lawsuit to proceed against their previous lawyers.
The appeals court Thursday overturned the dismissal of some plaintiffs and claims after a federal judge had dismissed the lawsuit filed in 2016 by former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, The Salt Lake Tribune reported .
The lawsuit claims the law firm Snow Christensen & Martineau portrayed itself as representing each member of the sect, but actually only represented Warren Jeffs — the imprisoned former leader of the sect. They claim the lawyers helped Jeffs find legal mechanisms to hide child rape as well as benefit from child labor.
In dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Ted Stewart had ruled that some of the plaintiffs waited too long to sue and others had not provided enough evidence of legal malpractice to go to trial.
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Brent Hatch, an attorney representing the law firm, said the appeals court has upheld the dismissal of more than half the lawsuit's claims. The other claims were not advanced to trial but sent back to Stewart so he can hear additional evidence, he said.
"We're happy because we're confident that the remaining claims will be denied merit," Hatch said. "So we view it as a victory."
Attorneys for the former members did not return the newspaper's messages seeking comment Thursday.
Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas after being convicted of sexually assaulting girls he considered brides.