Lawyers for commissioner in Recapture Canyon case want judge disqualified

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San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman leaves federal court on Dec. 23, 2014.

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawyers for a San Juan County commissioner convicted of his role in a protest ride in Recapture Canyon are asking a judge to disqualify himself, citing his ties to an environmental group.

In a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court, attorneys for Phil Lyman ask U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby to be disqualified from the case. They claim Judge Shelby is “close friends” with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s legal director, Stephen Bloch, who has advocated for a stiff sentence for Lyman.

Judge Shelby disclosed the relationship during a related case, lawyers for Lyman wrote, including a transcript of it:

“I just wanted to start with a disclosure, Steve Bloch, on behalf of SUWA, Steve Bloch and his wife Kara are friends of mine and have been for a long, long time. I practiced with Kara at Snow Christensen starting in 1999. My wife and I have socialized with the two of them since that time, we continue to socialize. My son is close friends with Steve’s son, they play on the same soccer team, in the same school class. We have dinner, are couples together and with other friends not infrequently.”

Lyman’s attorneys said in the motion no such disclosure was made in his criminal prosecution. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah is expected to reply to the request.

Lyman was convicted by a jury earlier this year on misdemeanor charges related to last year’s protest ride in Recapture Canyon over federal road closures. Lyman has yet to be sentenced.

If Judge Shelby recuses himself, a new judge could vacate his conviction and order a new trial.