8/23/09 – TG: Judge to decide Alamo lawyers’ record request

Texarkana Gazette
August 23, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Judge to decide Alamo lawyers’ record request

DHS files motion to end subpoena; ministry claims human rights have been violated

Tony Alamo Christian Ministries’ lawyers won’t be getting the records they requested if a federal judge agrees with arguments recently made by the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Alamo ministries and two fathers with kids in foster care are suing three high level DHS administrators claiming the agency is using a child abuse investigation to disband the controversial group and has violated their civil rights.

Late Thursday, DHS filed a motion that, if granted, would put an end to a subpoena issued on behalf of the ministry. U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes is presiding in the Texarkana division of the Western District of Arkansas.

DHS’ motion argues that Phillip Kuhn, the attorney who filed the suit on the church’s behalf, is asking for documents that go back farther than the allegations do and isn’t following mandatory rules governing document production, despite being aware of them.

On June 30, Barnes gave Kuhn permission to get records from DHS that might indicate the agency has acted in bad faith. If no bad faith existed, Barnes is likely to dismiss the case because federal courts will not get involved in state actions, like custody cases, except in rare circumstances.

The government’s motion said Kuhn’s request is too broad.

“Plaintiffs fishing expedition encompasses everything under the sun pertaining to Tony Alamo and the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries since 2003 regardless of the relevancy to the actual allegations in plaintiffs’ complaint,” the government’s motion said.

The motion also pointed out that administrators John Selig and Gwen Lovelace didn’t get their positions until 2005 and 2006 respectively, though Kuhn is asking for documents to support a theory they acted in bad faith that go back farther than their current assignments.

The motion said the subpoenas for depositions of DHS Director Selig, Miller County DHS Administrator Steve Mason and Fort Smith division administrator Lovelace were served Aug. 13. The subpoenas also directed the administrators to bring with them any DHS record referring to Alamo or the ministry going back to 2003.

Federal rules allow 30 days for the production of documents, the motion said. According to the government, Kuhn can’t expect to get the records he wants until the second week of Sept.

Kuhn only has until Sept. 15 to complete “limited discovery” into the assertion the administrators acted in bad faith. More than 30 children of Alamo following parents have been taken into state care since a raid of ministry properties in Fouke, Ark., Sept. 20, 2008.

The children were removed amid allegations of abuse and neglect.

In the same court where the civil suit is pending, Tony Alamo was convicted July 24 of bringing young girls across state lines for sex. He’ll be sentenced at an as yet undetermined date and could receive as many as 175 years. He’s currently being held in a jail in downtown Texarkana.

Witnesses who testified at Alamo’s criminal trail in July said children as young as three were beaten with boards, that children were subjected to forced fasts as a form of discipline, that girls were allowed to marry before the law allows and that education ceased if kids were needed to work.

In an earlier interview, Miller County Circuit Judge Joe Griffin said the courts are not asking parents to quit attending church at Alamo Ministries. Griffin said family reunification plans directing parents to find outside employment and housing are meant to protect children.

Griffin also said some children have been returned to the custody of their parents because they’ve complied.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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