6/25/10 – TG: Alamo group appeals decision. Judge dismissed suit alleging DHS used custody cases to disband ministry

Texarkana Gazette
June 25, 2010
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo group appeals decision
Judge dismissed suit alleging DHS used custody cases to disband ministry

Tony Alamo Christian Ministries filed a brief this week urging a federal appeals court to send the case back to the federal district court that dismissed it.

Last year, the ministry and members Bert Krantz and Greg Seago, whose children had been taken by the state, filed a civil lawsuit alleging the Arkansas Department of Human services used a child abuse investigation as a pretense to disband the group.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes of the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas dismissed the case. He ruled that long-accepted legal doctrine preventing federal court intervention in state court proceedings, such as custody cases, and a lack of standing by the church to bring the lawsuit warranted a dismissal.

The ministry argues that because it isn’t a party in the state custody proceedings concerning the children of Alamo loyalists, it has no opportunity to get relief from the state court. The ministry’s lawyer argues in the brief that abstention doctrine shouldn’t apply.

Abstention doctrine allows a court to refuse to hear a case if hearing the case would encroach upon the authority of another court.

“As Tony Alamo Christian Ministries has repeatedly recognized on appeal, it likely was a mistake to have brought the case with Krantz and Seago because it invited … abstention from their mere presence,” the brief said. “So Tony Alamo Christian Ministries has to jettison Krantz and Seago to have any chance on appeal, and it asserted that it is being harmed separate from the parents.”

Hall’s brief alleges that the ministry will be in a legal “no man’s land” if the courts find that abstention doctrine applies to the ministry because it is not a party in the state custody cases.

In the civil complaint, the ministry says it is being harmed because members with children have fled to avoid child welfare officials. The loss of members has reduced the number of individuals living and working as volunteers on ministry properties.

The suit alleges the ministry has been harmed by DHS’ action with a decrease in donations and a hampering of its ability to spread the message of Tony Alamo after the September 2008 raid on ministry property.

In his opinion dismissing the civil case that the ministry is now appealing, Barnes ruled that the ministry has no “legally protected interest” that is being injured.

The appeal of Barnes’ dismissal of the civil suit is pending in the federal 8th Circuit appellate court.

On Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court declined to review the cases of three Alamo families whose children were taken by the state.

The state court of appeals previously denied the parents’ requests for relief from rulings made by Circuit Judge Joe Griffin that the children would remain in state care. The children were found to be in danger of abuse or neglect in the form of beatings, forced fasts, underage marriage and a lack of basic education and medical treatment.

Tony Alamo was convicted in July 2009 on all 10 counts listed in a federal indictment accusing him of bringing young girls he’d wed across state lines for sex. He is appealing the conviction.

In: 2010

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