What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Dear Editor,

The Guest Column in the June 6th edition by former legislator Dee Brown was a refreshing change of pace; it’s not often that a 16-year political veteran finds her most compelling argument in the form of a “grade school” fable.

Using the tale of the “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Ms. Brown succinctly laid out a complex web of corruption tainting not only the courts, but their administrative staff, and all Montana “newspaper editorial boards, journalism professors, attorneys and right-to-know interest groups.” This must be a particularly recent development, since in 2005 then Representative Brown sponsored a bill that increased funding for the Supreme Court of Montana (HB 414), but perhaps Ms. Brown was naïve at the time and her eyes have since been opened.

Instead I think Ms. Brown may have forgotten a grade school fable that predates Hans Christian Andersen by over 2000 years: Aesop’s “The Farmer and the Fox.” In this ancient story, a farmer catches a fox that has been harassing his chickens and sets its tail on fire as punishment. Terrified, the fox runs straight through the farmer’s fields and burns his entire crop. No doubt, like the fox, the Supreme Court of Montana has annoyed Ms. Brown and her colleagues on several occasions. Maybe it has snatched one of its prize winning legislative hens here and there. So they–––have set out to light the Court’s tail on fire to teach it a lesson, branding them “vain” and threatening to… well it’s not quite clear what they’re threatening, but it’s big they assure us.

So, once Ms. Brown has successfully lit the Supreme Court’s tail on fire, what then? What could possibly go wrong with requiring the entire judiciary that oversees all criminal prosecutions in Montana, as well as all civil trials and corporate dispute resolutions, to recuse itself or face a mountain of legislative subpoenas every time they get too close to one of Ms. Browns prized hens? I don’t know about anyone else, but we seem to be in the middle of a political drought and I’d put the risk of fire at Extremely High.


Blake Phillips