TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (KRQE) - The weekend furor over a New Mexico youth ranch at the center of a child-abuse investigation moved to the calm of District Court Tuesday.
But the proceedings weren't over criminal charges but rather the lawsuit Scott Chandler, the owner of the Tierra Blanca Youth ranch filed last week over the state's efforts to take custody of the boys at the ranch.
Lawyers for the ranch and the state Children, Youth and Families Department spent the afternoon arguing over whether the lawsuit will go forward because its scope has changed.
Tierra Blanca filed the suit in an attempt to stop CYFD from shutting it down and removing the kids during an investigation of abuse allegations.
But on Friday morning New Mexico State Police arrived at the ranch with a search warrant and a judge's orders to take the teens. The teens weren't there, though, leading to an Amber Alert that continued into Sunday night until all the boys were accounted for.
Ranch attorney Pete Domenici Jr. said Chandler was personally dropping off the teens with their guardians.
On Tuesday the District Court judge allowed Domenici to amend the lawsuit.
"We will be asking the court to declare that Scott Chandler was acting with parental authority and that the parents that were working with him and gave him the temporary guardianship were also acting with parental authority," Domenici told the judge.
Chandler was not in court Tuesday, and CYFD attorney Jennifer Saavedra questioned whether he would be required to attend future hearings.
Domenici countered that he didn't want the state to use a future hearing to serve Chandler with anything related to possible criminal charges.
The judge ruled Chandler will have to show up for his next court hearing which is set for Jan. 15. Attorneys said they are hoping this will go to trial in March or April.
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