The Appeals Court decision is a temporary win for 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg, who resisted federal Judge Dee Benson's order to return management of the United Effort Plan trust to the church. The appeals court in Denver found a "threat of irreparable harm" would exist if it did not grant Lindberg's request for the stay. The order will remain in place until the 10th Circuit resolves all the appeals. The court had issued a temporary stay earlier this month.
In addition, the appeals court stayed Benson's order that Lindberg appear before him to explain why she didn't remove herself and Wisan as trust fund managers. Wednesday's order heads off for now a face-to-face clash between the state and federal judges.
Lindberg and Benson engaged in a judicial duel the past few weeks over control of the drawn out case. Benson at one point threatened to call in federal marshals and hold Lindberg in contempt of court. Lindberg appealed to the 10th Circuit for relief.
Over the past week, lawyers for Linderg, Wisan and the FLDS Church filed lengthy motions arguing for and against the stay.
Wisan's attorney, Jeffrey Shields, contended the stay should be issued "to avert the immediate dissipation of trust assets by Warren Jeffs and the danger that the trust will be used to facilitate sex crimes against children."
Jeffs is in a Texas jail awaiting trial on bigamy and aggravated sexual assault charges.
Rodney Parker, an attorney for the church, argued the appeals court should let Benson's ruling stand.
"It is unfortunate that Judge Lindberg would argue that it is adverse to the public interest for the FLDS to choose, as a matter of religious devotion and practice, a lawful program of common ownership," he wrote.
The UEP was created by the FLDS Church in 1942 on the concept of a "united order," allowing followers to share in its assets. Members consider sharing its assets a religious principle and see state intervention in the trust as a violation of their religious rights.
The trust holds most of the property and homes in the twin FLDS communities located in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The courts took it over in 2005 amid allegations it had been mismanaged by FLDS leaders.