Frog fiasco


By David Barnett



David Barnett Contributing Columnist


In my many years as a district court judge in the State of Oklahoma, I have presided over several cases which were highly publicized in our area and in our state. However, I have had very few that received national publicity. The first such case was one which I have come to remember as “The Tillman County Frog Case”, an account of which was widely publicized all over the nation.

As part of my normal responsibilities, I was assigned to preside over cases arising under the general misdemeanor statutes, as well as the specialized misdemeanor statutes, including the wildlife and game laws. In the infamous “Tillman County Frog Case”, a man was charged with shooting or “taking” a frog out of season or without having purchased the requisite hunting license.

In presenting the case, the State’s attorney relied on the wildlife code in the Oklahoma Statutes, and did not present the more specialized regulations promulgated by the Wildlife Commission, nor did I have ready access to them at the hearing. In examining the wildlife code, it became clear to me that amphibians, including frogs, were not covered by the definitions of game or wildlife in the Oklahoma Statutes. Of course, I later learned that frogs are covered by the Wildlife Commission’s regulations. Based upon my reading of the statutes, I summarily dismissed the case, much to the chagrin of the state game ranger who had written the citation and presented the case to the district attorney for prosecution.

The editor of the Frederick Press, Joe Miller, covered the case and apparently saw an opportunity for a funny “editorial”. The newspaper’s next issue after the dismissal contained the very well written editorial which was hilarious to almost everyone. The title of the editorial was, “CROAK! Judge’s ruling unpopular with county bullfrog population,” and it appeared on the front page of the Frederick Press. In a humorous way, the editorial “critiqued” my ruling. Because of the high quality of Joe’s editorial and its humorous nature, it was picked up by all of the major wire services and published in newspapers around the nation. For several months, I received calls and letters from friends around the country about my most famous case. Almost everywhere I went; someone would ask me about the “Tillman County Frog case”. One of my daughters even gave me an “amphibian” tie to commemorate the case.

For a time, I even gave thought to directing that my obituary should contain no reference to my judicial career, lest I should be forevermore remembered as the judge who presided over the “Tillman County Frog Case!”

Reach David Barnett by contacting Kathleen Guill at pressled@pldi.net

David Barnett Contributing Columnist
http://www.press-leader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/web1_pic-of-Barnett-3.jpgDavid Barnett Contributing Columnist

By David Barnett

Reach David Barnett by contacting Kathleen Guill at pressled@pldi.net

Reach David Barnett by contacting Kathleen Guill at pressled@pldi.net

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