Sen. off base about Supreme Court

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Dear Editor,

The Guest Column in the Thursday May 27th edition regarding the Montana Supreme Court was incredibly troubling to me. I sympathize with the frustration of the author, Senator David Howard of Park City. I too would be very frustrated if, even when my party held near supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature, both of my bills to scare judges into compliance with my ideology died in committee (SB 141 & SB 252). An outrage!

I would also be completely frustrated knowing that in spite of the fact that the judiciary is clearly “usurping the law” and “threatening the people’s Attorney General,” they still enjoy a 90% approval rating from lawyers across the state, and that 87% of those lawyers believe that “the Court’s decisions are based on facts and applicable law” (Montana Supreme Court Performance Measures 2020 Bench and Bar Survey). How could that be possible?!

Perhaps most frustrating of all would be the Court’s proven track record.

With 79% of the Court’s cases in the last 3 years being unanimous, far better than the US Supreme Court’s 32% over the same time period (Mead and Kato 2020). Surely that must mean that even Justice Rice, whose dissent in Bates v. Neva (2014) Mr. Howard eloquently cited, is in on the “usurping” and the “threatening.” After all, even the dastardly opinion threatening “the people’s Attorney General” was unanimous (McLaughlin v. Montana State Legislature 2020). It now makes perfect sense why the attorneys in that case had to illegally refuse to recognize the “Court’s order as binding” and refuse to abide by it. What a den of vipers they must be!

It seems that his own party, at least 87% of Montana attorneys, and basic facts stand arrayed against Mr. Howard’s righteous crusade for justice. I write this letter, then, to suggest to Mr. Howard his only last remaining legal recourse. This must be taken to the only document the dastardly Supreme Court cannot touch: The Constitution of the State of Montana! Mr. Howard clearly understands how to trigger a citizen’s referendum, as he tried to do just that this last session to second guess the will of the voters (SB 401) (Perhaps Mr. Howard has also soured to that solution since that bill also died in committee). This will require Mr. Howard to collect many signatures, but I know that the motivation that burns in him to see justice done will help him carry on. I only suggest he invest in a warm winter coat. It gets chilly on those Montana street corners and I suspect he will be out there for quite a while.


Blake Phillips