ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — A federal judge in South Dakota who charged three members of the U.S. Marshals Service with contempt of court over a COVID-19 vaccination dispute removed himself from the case after assigning an in-state attorney to prosecute the proceedings.

The chain of events began when state and federal prosecutors declined to handle the case. A retired attorney whom U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann tried to appoint opted out over debate on whether he needed to restart his practice. Kormann than assigned Thomas Fritz, of Rapid City, and recused himself.

Kornmann stated in an order filed Tuesday that it’s likely the other federal judges in South Dakota will decline the case as well. If so, the chief judge for the 8th U.S. CIrcuit Court of Appeals will appoint a replacement judge.

Three supervisory marshals, including the agency’s Chief of Staff John Kilgallon, are accused of allowing a deputy marshal to leave the courthouse in Aberdeen with prisoners in tow on May 10, after the marshal refused to tell the judge whether she had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

"The Department of Justice, acting through the Marshals Service, has apparently adopted a public policy to the effect that DOJ policies may trump lawful federal court orders," Kornmann said in Tuesday's filing. “This cannot be permitted. Despite some public confusion, this case has nothing to do with requiring anyone to be fully vaccinated.”