Trials & Litigation

Federal judge sequesters 19 lawyers in jury room, tells them to 'identify genuine issues' by 2 pm

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A federal judge put 19 lawyers in his Salt Lake City jury room on Monday morning and told them he hoped they would “identify genuine issues” in a nearly 40-year-old case over the prosecution of crimes on an Indian reservation by the time he returns to the bench at 2 p.m.

First assigned to the case in 1975, when it was filed, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins is tasked with working out a resolution to conflicting claims by multiple law enforcement agencies over jurisdiction on the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation. Lawyers confined to the jury room Monday, albeit with a lunch break OK’d by Jenkins, represent the state of Utah, the Ute Indian Tribe, Duchesne and Uintah counties and the cities of Duchesne, Myton and Roosevelt, the Deseret News reports.

Resolved in 2000 with a number of 10-year contracts, most of which have since expired, the case was reactivated in April. At issue is not only what some parties describe as encroachment into the reservation’s law enforcement powers by outside entities but an alleged land grab. “They are using these prosecutions to challenge tribal boundaries,” attorney Frances Bassett, who represents the tribe, told the judge.

The tribe is seeking an emergency injunction that would prevent outside agencies from arresting and prosecuting individuals on its land.

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