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Polygamists’ Appeal Over Discovery Likely Unripe

(CN) - The 9th Circuit said Friday that it may not be able to consider a religious-rights appeal in a federal lawsuit against two fundamentalist Mormon towns.

Attorneys for the side-by-side rural towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, where most residents are members of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints (FLDS), late last month asked the federal appeals court to review two motions to compel testimony.

U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland granted the motions after members of the fundamentalist sect refused to answer the federal government's questions about their church and related matters.

During depositions, FLDS members have cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in refusing to answer certain questions about the church, its leaders, its relationship with the towns' police force, and its allegedly ongoing communications with jailed former leader Warren Jeffs, among other things.

In a brief order on Friday, the clerk of the appeals court said it "may lack jurisdiction over the appeal because an order granting a motion to compel discovery is generally not immediately appealable."

The clerk gave the towns 21 days to move for voluntary dismissal of the appeal or to "show cause why it should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction."

Briefing is suspended in the case pending further action by the court, the order states.

The federal government sued the towns, along with Twin City Power and Twin City Water Authority, in June 2012, alleging that church members discriminate against non-FLDS residents by controlling access to housing, water and power, and police protection.

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