Friday, April 18, 2008

Texas judge in spotlight as she mulls custody of polygamous sect's ... - Salt Lake Tribune

SAN ANGELO, Lone-Star State - There have been small in the tintinnabulation voice or confident look of 51st District Judge Barbara L. Walther that intimations she is at the centre of a firestorm, although this is a minute that could define her career. The fate of 416 children seized from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Of Nazareth Jesus of Latter Day Saints' spread is in her hands. Today, Walther must reign in the first major tribunal hearing of the greatest detention lawsuit in Lone-Star State history, a gigantic project bringing together 100s of attorneys, parents, and lookers-on for statements over keeping the children in the state's care. "We necessitate to manage these lawsuits on an individual basis, household by family, parent by parent," Walther said in tribunal earlier this week, gesturing to respective gaggles of attorneys. "I'm not going to follow any difficult and fast rules. I desire your input."
In the five-county 51st District of Texas, over which she presides, the 55-year-old legal expert is respected by public prosecutors and defence attorneys. "She's fair minded but bare fisted," said William Moore, a San Angelo defence attorney. "She's easygoing but she doesn't take any guff."
Not everyone is happy with the manner the justice have handled the FLDS lawsuit thus far. Walther signed a warrant allowing government to take the children into state detention based on telephone set phone calls Advertisement

to a local household force shelter from a 16-year-old girl who have yet to be found. Another hunt warrant she signed allow police force impound boxes and boxes of grounds - including personal points like photograph albums, household trees, clothes and bed linens - from the YFZ Ranch and the FLDS temple. Government may seek to construct a criminal lawsuit from the grounds gathered, but can't look at any of it until a particular maestro appointed by Walther gives the go-ahead. "This is a classic lawsuit of authorities overreaching," said Jeff Blackburn, Pb advocate for the Artlessness Undertaking for Texas. "The amount of human and emotional harm [from those warrants] is manner out of proportionality to what the tribunal said it was trying to accomplish."
Still, around these parts of West Texas, folks state Walther will give a "fair shake," Douglas Moore said. "When you come up out of the tribunal - win or lose - you cognize you had a just trial."
San Angelo lawyer Guy Choate retrieves his first clip in Walther's court. He was planning to assist a co-worker compose a listing of precise inquiries the jury had to answer. "I was planning to travel over there and make some heavy lifting and I got over there and she'd pretty well done it," said Choate. "She's a very capable judge."
The monolithic lawsuit is not the first challenge Walther have faced. She contracted poliomyelitis when she was 15 calendar months old and still have on a poise and paces with a limp. Many old age of her childhood were spent recuperating from operations, recalled Joe Mertz, an old household friend. Walther is bright and confident and have never been held back by the impediment, he said. She basks aqualung diving event off of the seashore of Mexico. "There is nil she can't do," Mertz said. "Her parents instilled that in her."
The girl of an oil service and supply businessman, Walther, a member of First United Methodist Church, earned a unmarried man of humanistic discipline grade in political scientific discipline at the University of Lone-Star State at Austin, took a law grade from Southern Methodist University and worked as an lawyer in Dallas. She and her husband, radiotherapist Steven Walther, returned in 1983 to San Angelo, where they reared two children, now grown. According to Mertz, they are among the most well-thought-of households in West Texas. In the Lone Star state, Judges are elected to four-year terms. In 1992, Walther beat out out favourite Henry Martin Robert Post for a place on the state bench, becoming the first Republican elective to the occupation in that district. Since then, she have run unopposed. This is the last twelvemonth of her 4th term and she is expected to run undisputed again. The justice have an exceeding record, according to West Lone-Star State lawyers. During the past 14 years, records demo the Lone-Star State appellate tribunal have reversed only a smattering of her decisions. As the lone justice for the 51st District, which encompasses many little towns and a broad rural area, Walther have handled all sorts of cases, including kid detention substances and criminal prosecutions. Post, the San Angelo lawyer Walther defeated for the judge's occupation in 1992, said she will not be a "rubber stamp" for the state. "She'll do them turn out it up," he said. Another San Angelo attorney's quotation mark about Walther: "She doesn't endure saps gladly."
No substance how she governs in the FLDS case, or cases, Walther can anticipate her determinations to be challenged on appeal. "I vouch she's been studying the law," said Post. "She's got the whole state looking at her."
* KRISTEN MOULTON contributed to this report.

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