SALT LAKE CITY — A federal court has rejected arguments that a judge should be removed from a case over accusations he is “biased, senile and Mormon.”
Lawyers for the Ute Tribe, suing the state of Utah over tribal boundary issues, sought to have U.S. District Court Judge Bruce Jenkins recused from hearing the case by claiming the 89-year-old judge’s “memory and ability to analyze legal issues appears to be decreasing.” The tribe also claimed Judge Jenkins’ membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints created a bias.
It was something U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Friot, a sitting judge in Oklahoma who was asked to review the case, rejected.
“Without so much as a passing reference to controlling authority that is fatal to its religion-based argument, plaintiff suggests that membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – by Judge Jenkins or by any other judge – may be grounds for disqualification “in any case involving Indians or Indian tribes” because, as people with “dark skin,” Indians purportedly come up on the short end of a passage (Alma 3:6) in Mormon scripture,” Judge Friot wrote.
“Assuming, for present purposes, that Judge Jenkins is, as asserted, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, plaintiff’s argument is conclusively foreclosed by the Tenth Circuit’s unequivocal holding that membership in and support of ‘the Mormon Church would never be enough to disqualify’ a judge.”
The order is the latest in a long-running legal dispute between the Ute tribal authorities and the state of Utah. The lawsuit, filed years ago, accuses local law enforcement authorities of treading on tribal boundaries in traffic stops, searches and arrests. It also accuses the state of doing nothing to stop it.
Read the order issued by the judge here: