This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to keep a polygamous sect's property trust under government control Wednesday, siding, for now, with a state court judge in a heated judicial standoff.
The appellate judges blocked a federal court order that would have temporarily returned control to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for the first time since the state of Utah took over the trust six years ago.
Court-appointed administrator Bruce Wisan will continue to run the trust but is barred from making any major changes.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson ruled in February that the state takeover was illegal and this month signed the order temporarily returning it to the FLDS.
Then 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg, who oversaw the administration of the trust following the state takeover, issued her own order blocking that move. She directed Wisan to disobey Benson's order to turn over all records.
Benson responded by threatening to send federal marshals to bring Lindberg to his court for contempt proceedings.
The 10th Circuit, which is considering an appeal of Benson's ruling, paused the standoff by granting Lindberg's motion for an emergency stay. In an order filed Wednesday, the judges again sided with Lindberg, who argued that Benson overstepped his authority and violated her immunity as a judge.
Tenth Circuit Judges Terrence O'Brien and Jerome Holmes decided Lindberg had made a legitimate argument that Benson's decision could be overturned on appeal and that there was a threat of "irreparable harm" if control of the trust immediately went back to the FLDS. The stay is in effect pending their decision on the appeal of Benson's decision. The judges also paused Benson's attempt to hold Lindberg in contempt.
Attorneys for Wisan argued in court documents filed Friday that FLDS leaders would abuse the trust, citing two incidents from recent weeks: the removal of thousands of books from an old schoolhouse a non-FLDS resident hoped to turn into a library in Colorado City, Ariz., and the alleged eviction of an FLDS wife who avowed support for her husband, who is challenging Jeffs for control of the church's Corporation of the President.
Attorneys for the sect, however, argued that the state had violated the Constitutional separation between church and state when it took over the trust, and that every day the state continued to control it was a violation of the Constitution.
Created in 1942 to fulfill a religious belief in holding property communally, the United Effort Plan Trust is worth about $110 million and holds nearly all the land, homes and property in FLDS home base of Colorado City and Hildale. The state of Utah took over the trust in 2005 amid allegations of mismanagement by FLDS trustees.
Calls to FLDS attorney Rod Parker and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Jeffs moved between Texas jails
O Polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs, facing sexual assault and bigamy charges in Texas, has been moved to another jail. See story at sltrib.com.