Bob Dylan: Judicial Muse?

Lyrics by “super groups” such as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan are becoming accepted in court opinions, briefs and in legal scholarship. Apparently, the California Court of Appeals cites a particular song so often that “it’s almost boilerplate”, according to a study by Alex Long, University of Tennessee law professor. The phrase he speaks of is “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” referring to the fact that you don’t always need complicated expert scientific testimony when everyone knows “which way the wind blows”.

Who leads in number of citations? Even though “you can’t always get what you want” by the Rolling Stones is certainly catchy, it’s Bob Dylan that both liberal and conservative justices cite to by a landslide. U. S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently quoted “the times they are a changing” in an employment law case (“City of Ontario, California v. Quon”). Justice Roberts used “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose” in the case of an issue involving standing (“Sprint Communications Co. v. APPCC Services, Inc.”).

Who knows – the California Legislature may adopt these as “Legal Maxims”.

This article largely quotes from the NPR podcast “Bob Dylan’s Words Find Place in Legal Writings”.

For more information click on these links:

Bob Dylan – muse of justice?” (LA Times)

“In some courts, Dylan rules” (LA Times)

“Chart: The Top Ten Musicians Referenced in Court” (The Atlantic Wire)

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