Federal Judge Rejects Ute Tribe’s Request for Injunction in Jurisdiction Fight with State

A federal judge on Monday rejected the Ute Indian Tribe’s “emergency” request for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked prosecutions of several tribal members charged in state court with offenses that allegedly occurred on tribal lands.

The tribe argued it faces “irreparable harm” if the state prosecutes them before U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins has a chance to rule on the merits of its jurisdictional dispute with Uintah and Duchesne counties. At issue is where exactly does tribal jurisdiction end and state jurisdiction begin in the “checkerboard” pattern of tribal trust lands in the Uinta Basin.

But the state has agreed to stay the criminal cases in question pending the outcome of this latest dispute, the judge found. The tribe was not satisfied and wanted assurances that the state would refrain from bringing new cases against its members.

“They are only willing to stay the existing cases. There are several thousand members. We don’t want this issue of the tribe’s boundaries litigated in state court without our knowledge. [When new cases are filed] they should be required to bring it to our attention,” argued the tribe’s lawyer Frances Bassett.

Article here.

In the judge’s frustration with the attorneys’ failure to agree on the issues to be resolved, he sequestered them in the jury room, giving them until 2:00 that day to “identify genuine issues” in the case. Here.