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HEARING IN TRIBAL JURISDICTION DELAYED

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A hearing in U.S. District Court to determine the status of tribal jurisdiction in criminal cases in the Uintah Basin has been delayed for two months to give attorneys for both the Ute Indian Tribe and the state of Utah additional time to prepare their arguments.

U.S. District Court Judge Bruce Jenkins agreed to postpone an injunction hearing, scheduled for June 7, to Aug. 2 at the request of attorneys.Last month Jenkins "modified" the 18-month old injunction he placed on state, city and county law enforcement officers to allow them to arrest Ute tribal members accused of committing felonies on non-trust lands pending the June 7 hearing. Those arrested on misdemeanor counts will still be taken to tribal court for prosecution pending the outcome of the hearing.

Jenkins' initial injunction prohibited interference from Duchesne and Uintah county law enforcement officers over all Utes arrested on non-trust lands.

State and local governments have requested that Jenkins vacate his injunction in light of last February's U.S. Supreme Court decision diminishing the size of the reservation by millions of acres, effectively giving criminal and civil jurisdiction over tribal members on non-trust lands back to the state and local governmental entities.

Even though federal law enforcement authorities have already taken the position that non-trust lands are no longer Indian country and therefore are no longer subject to federal jurisdiction, the injunction remains in place, creating a jurisdictional gap in law enforcement in the Uintah Basin because state and local law enforcement officers are prohibited from exercising jurisdiction.

"Our contention is that we have full authority to prosecute any type of crime not on trust land. In our position everything not trust land is not in "Indian country," said Herb Gillespie, Duchesne County attorney.

The tribe however, contends that trust land and allotted lands, or areas that originally went to Indians after the reservation opened for homesteading in 1905 but have since come into non-Indian hands, are included in the definition of "Indian country."

They maintain the injunction should remain in place until questions arising from the U.S. Supreme Court decision over land ownership can be answered to their satisfaction.