Attorneys for Duchesne and Uintah counties as well as the Ute Indian Tribe have agreed to a Sept. 30 date to remove a 6-year old preliminary injunction that has barred the counties from exercising jurisdictional authority over enrolled Ute tribe members.
The order affects only those lands determined not to be a part of the Ute Reservation. Exactly where those lands are is still being defined through an ongoing mapping process.During a status hearing last Friday, U.S. District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins said he wants to meet again with the parties Sept. 25 to confirm they are moving toward resolutions that will allow the injunction to be lifted with as little confusion as possible.
When the injunction is lifted, the county and state will have misdemeanor criminal jurisdiction over tribal members charged with crimes in unincorporated areas of the county that do not bear reservation status.
Lifting the injunction will also remove the sales tax exemption for tribal members on non-reservation lands, such as Roosevelt. Purchases made by tribal members in Duchesne County and western Uintah County have been tax-free since a 1986 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that decreed the original boundaries of the Uintah Valley Reservation remained intact.
Subsequent court cases over the past 12 years have modified that ruling somewhat: While the exterior reservation boundaries do exist, lands opened by Congress in 1902 and 1903 to homesteaders were removed from the reservation, according to a 1997 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision.
Last September, Jenkins lifted the 1992 preliminary injunction as it affected Roosevelt only. His actions prompted Ute leaders to call for a boycott of Roosevelt businesses. Tribal leaders say the boycott would end if the Roosevelt City Council would agree to defer Ute Tribe members accused of misdemeanor criminal activity to tribal court for prosecution. Last May City Council members voted 3-2 to maintain jurisdiction over tribal members accused of misdemeanors. They already had jurisdiction over tribal members in felony cases.
The City Council will meet with Duchesne County commissioners Monday to discuss possible ways to resolve the economic stalemate between the city and tribe. Issues on the table for resolution deal with misdemeanor jurisdiction, as well as cross-deputization of law enforcement officers, rights of way, roads and hunting and fishing.