The trial over Utah's abortion law was unexpectedly - and indefinitely - postponed by a federal judge late Thursday, prompting speculation that the judge may rule on the case without a trial.
Clerks for U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene telephoned lawyers for the state and the American Civil Liberties Union Thursday afternoon and told them Greene is drafting an order that will indefinitely postpone the trial, which had been scheduled to open April 6.Greene's staff confirmed to the Deseret News that the trial has been postponed. Greene will issue an order to that effect sometime Friday, his secretary said.
Attorneys for the state hope Greene's postponement means he will rule without a trial on the constitutionality of Utah's controversial law. State attorneys have urged Greene to either dismiss the case or rule in their favor without a trial.
"I don't want to read too much into the delay, but it keeps our hopes alive that the case will be decided on summary judgment," said Anthony Quinn, attorney for the state.
"That's certainly one way to look at it," said Jeff Oritt, attorney for the ACLU. But clerks phoning the attorneys Thursday also told them Greene wanted them in court April 10 for arguments on all remaining pretrial motions, Orritt said.
Greene doesn't need to hear those arguments to rule on the state's motions for dismissal or summary judgment, Orritt said. The April 10 conference led ACLU attorneys to hope the trial still may be on. ACLU attorneys are eager for a full trial on the matter.
Greene may have postponed the trial while he reviews U.S. Magistrate Ronald Boyce's recommendation that only one witness be allowed to testify at a trial that was scheduled to run six weeks. "I think Judge Greene may have been surprised at the enormity of the magistrate's paring," Oritt said.