A Ute tribal judge has declared invalid a cross-deputization agreement between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and state, county and city law enforcement agencies in eastern Utah.
Associate Tribal Judge Kathryn Jenks ruled Thursday that the agreement signed last month was illegally ratified by the tribe's governing Business Committee and violates the Ute Tribal Constitution.She said committee members failed to first draft a resolution on the agreement for inspection by tribal members before signing it.
"The argument is not the content of the agreement, but rather that it violated the tribal constitution because of the way it was ratified," the judge said.
The ruling came in the case of Ute Parley Serawop, who had been arrested by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper on the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation, charged with drunken driving and scheduled for trial in tribal court.
Janet Cuch, a legal representative for tribal members, argued that the invalidity of the cross-deputization agreement made Serawop's arrest illegal, and Jenks dismissed his case and all others on the docket concerning tribal members arrested by outside officers. Jenks also dismissed all other cases on the docket that day in which tribal members had been arrested by outside officers.
The ruling means that only BIA police officers can arrest tribal members on the 4.2 million-acre reservation, which sprawls through Uintah, Duchesne and Wasatch counties.
Perry Baker, the BIA superintendent for the reservation, said it was ironic that some tribal members were challenging the federal document that, for the first time, granted Indian police the power to arrest non-Indians on the reservation.