Issues Raised by the Nomination of David Ogden Nufferfor United States District Court Judge for the District of Utah
n the Matter of the Adoption of W.A.T., 808 P.2d 1083 (Utah 1991)
Judge Nuffer included this case in the questionnaire provided to the Committee in the ten most significant litigated matterswhich he personally handled.Further questioning of the nominee is warranted to clarify his judicial attitudes about protecting the civil rights of childrenraised in polygamous cultures opposed to the civil rights of acknowledged practitioners of polygamy.One of the repercussions of the outcome of this case was visited upon an innocent 12-year-old girl who was given by her father to be a child bride at the age of twelve to the leader of his polygamous sect, Warren Steed Jeffs.
The father of the 12-year-old child bride was one of the children at issue
In the Matter of the Adoption of W.A.T.(Utah 1991)
who was subsequently raised along with his siblings in a polygamous culture.While in private practice at Snow Nuffer, a firm he co-founded with Steven E. Snow, David O. Nuffer and his partner represented the acknowledged practitioners of polygamy in their eventually successful effort to adopt the minor children of a plural wife who died from cancer.A contemporary comment from Judge Nuffer's co-counsel and partner after the district court granted the intervenors' (twosisters to the deceased natural mother) motion to dismiss:''There hasn't been an active prosecution of polygamy [in Utah] in more than 35 years,'' said the Fischers' lawyer,Steven E. Snow, who can trace his roots to four polygamous great-great-grandfathers. ''That says something abouthow accepting we are.''
The deceased parent had been directed into her first polygamous marriage at the age of 17 to a man who was also her step-father, who became the biological father of the children who were the subject of the adoption petition.The district court granted a motion to dismiss the original adoption petition filed by intervenors. The intervenors believedthe best “interests of the children” were for the children to be raised outside of a polygamous culture.The district court dismissal of the petition was appealed by the original petitioners with Steven E. Snow and David O. Nuffer as counsel to the Utah Supreme Court which reversed the lower court in a 1991 3-2 decision.The original petition for adoption was eventually granted to the practitioners of polygamy and the children were raised in polygamy, contrary to what the extended family of the two aunts considered to be in the “interests of the children.”Fast forward to August 2011 when evidence introduced in the Texas trial of Warren Steed Jeffs revealed a number of illegaland abusive underage marriages among the practitioners of polygamy known as the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-DaySaints (FLDS). FLDS members reside at the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado, Texas and historically in Washington County, Utahand Mohave County, Arizona in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona. The evidence was discoveredunder state and federal search warrants issued in Texas and Nevada in 2008 and 2006.One of the illegal polygamous marriages revealed in the evidence involved a then 12-year-old daughter of Wayne AlanFischer aka Wayne Alan Thornton, one of the children at issue
In the Matter of the Adoption of W.A.T., 808 P.2d 1083 (Utah1991).
1. Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas upon conviction of the sexual assault of a different 12-year-old child bride and a 15-year-oldchild bride. Jeffs is the acknowledged religious leader of the polygamous sect (the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints akaFLDS) to which the polygamous petitioners represented by Judge Nuffer belonged at the time of representation.