This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A state judge is squaring off with her federal counterpart over state control of a polygamous sect's property trust.
In a rare move, 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg on Monday ordered the court-appointed trust administrator not to comply with a federal court order giving the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints temporary control of the trust. The state took over the trust six years ago amid allegations of mismanagement, but U.S. District Judge Dee Benson ruled in February the takeover was illegal.
Lindberg ordered administrator Bruce Wisan not to turn over any assets, documents or "anything else pertaining to the trust" until outstanding legal questions are answered and an appeal of Benson's ruling is complete.
"Until all these thorny issues are finally resolved by the appropriate appellate courts ... this court must continue its oversight of the trust," she wrote. But she said Wisan should not make major changes until the appeals process is complete.
FLDS attorney Rod Parker said the ruling from one judge ordering a court employee to defy another judge is "unprecedented."
"It's uncharted territory," he said. He couldn't immediately say how FLDS attorneys would respond.
On Thursday, Benson signed an order requiring the state to temporarily turn over control of the trust to the church's legal entity, which is also the subject of an internal power struggle.
"Obviously, my position is rather unusual. I have two courts that are 180 degrees in different directions in terms of instructions to me," Wisan said.
As of Monday afternoon, he had not yet been asked to turn over any records. But with a church elder trying to take control of the church's Corporation of the President, "if someone asked for the records, who am I supposed to respond to?"
Attorneys will ask the 10th District Court of Appeals for an immediate stay of Benson's order while an appeal of his ruling is pending.
At least one of the outstanding legal issues will be addressed in a Utah Supreme Court hearing tomorrow. The justices will hear arguments on whether their dismissal of an FLDS appeal of the takeover last year means that Benson does not have authority to rule in the case.
Calling the order "quite historic," Wisan attorney Jeff Shields said it would prevent the trust from coming under the control of leader Warren S. Jeffs, who is now in jail in Texas awaiting trial on sexual assault and bigamy charges related to alleged underage marriages.
"If the assets get back into his hands, we don't know if we'll ever see them again," he said.
The trust holds nearly all the land, buildings and homes in the sect's home base of Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah, and in Bountiful, British Columbia.