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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judges at an Impasse Over Polygamists’ Land Dispute

(CN) - The 10th Circuit has suspended an order that would return control of a $110 million trust to a polygamist sect while it referees a territorial feud between state and federal judges.

The Denver-based federal appeals court on Friday granted a motion by Judge Denise Lindberg, of Utah's Third District Court, to stay a federal show-cause order filed by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson. Benson presides in the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

Early last week Lindberg refused to follow Benson's April 8 ruling to return control of the United Effort Plan Trust to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Benson subsequently issued a show-cause order and threatened to hold the state judge in contempt. Lindberg appealed to the 10th Circuit, which gave the parties until April 22 to file responses.

"Sufficient cause has been shown for temporary stays in order to offer all parties an opportunity to respond and for this court to make a considered decision," the unsigned 10th Circuit order states. "No actions shall be taken to enforce or implement either of the stayed orders until this temporary stay is lifted."

Benson's order would give control of the trust, including financial and property records and all of the trust's assets, to the Corporation of the President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The trust property includes more than 700 houses, farms, dairies and other businesses on land in two communities along the Arizona-Utah border. Utah had intervened in the trust amid claims of mismanagement stemming from the alleged crimes of Warren Jeffs, the church's incarcerated leader.

In recent years, several entities have sued the trust as an accomplice to Jeffs, who is now facing charges of bigamy and sexual assault in Texas after successfully vacating an earlier rape conviction in Utah.

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