A federal judge on Monday wrestled with whether to allow officials with the U.S. Marshals Service to face trial in an unusual criminal contempt case that has raised questions about the extent of a judge’s authority over a courtroom and highlighted how courts have approached vaccine mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Brian Buescher of the District of Nebraska, who took over the case after the judge who imposed the contempt charges recused himself, questioned both the defense and court-appointed special prosecutors about the legal foundation for a criminal case against security officials who directed the removal of incarcerated people from a South Dakota courthouse after a deputy U.S. marshal refused to tell a judge whether she had been vaccinated.