SAN ANGELO, Texas — Lawyers for child welfare authorities and a group of FLDS mothers filed more papers with the Texas Supreme Court today, but still no decision from the high court on what it will do about hundreds of children in state protective custody.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services urged the high court to grant its request for an emergency stay of a ruling by Austin's 3rd Court of Appeals.

The appellate court ruling said that Texas Child Protective Services acted improperly in removing all of the children. It ordered more than 100 children to be returned to their mothers and opened the door for other FLDS parents to seek the return of their children.

In today's filing, agency lawyers said that they still have been unable to identify family relationships and repeated claims that the parents made it deliberately difficult to establish paternity. Establishing those relationships, CPS claims, is critical to determining the risk of a sexual predator being in the home.

"Failure to grant a stay will mean that approximately 124 children will be returned to alleged mothers without any male sexual perpetrators being identified," Texas CPS lawyer Duke Hooten wrote.

Texas CPS lawyers also expressed concern that if the Supreme Court upheld the 3rd Court of Appeals decision, the FLDS might flee Texas — noting that they have no legal authority to compel anyone to remain in the state, as opposed to a typical divorce case.

"What greater threat could exist to the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court regarding this mandamus proceeding than the subject mothers and their 124 children fleeing the jurisdiction of the state of Texas and taking refuge in Hilldale (sic) Utah, Colorado City, Arizona, or some other undisclosed location?" Hooten wrote.

Lawyers for the 38 mothers filed a response hours later, taking issue with the agency's characterization of a San Antonio court proceeding that ended with 12 children being reunited with their parents. The FLDS mothers' attorneys noted that CPS agreed to send the children back to their parents under certain conditions.

"The Department's agreement to reunite some children with their parents undermines the reasons it has articulated for the stay," Amy Warr wrote. "First, it undermines the Department's insistence that every single child is in imminent danger of abuse because of the parents' beliefs."

Warr also said it contradicts CPS' claim that without DNA testing, it can't match children with their parents and that the agency has been allowing visitation and requiring family service plans to be signed, undermining its own positions.

If the 3rd Court of Appeals ruling stands, CPS said, the FLDS children "will be at risk of continuing sexual and emotional abuse, which certainly is not in the children's best interest."

A spokesman for the Texas Supreme Court said that attorneys worked over the holiday weekend on the case, but it is too early to say if the court will act today.


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com