Who do you think would be the most-quoted musician in court opinions? The Rolling Stones? The Beatles? Paul Simon? A recent fun and interesting article in the Los Angeles Times by Carol J. Williams reveals that lines from Bob Dylan songs are the most cited of all song lyrics in court opinions and legal briefs.
A law professor at the University of Texas looked through databases holding court filings and scholarly legal publications in 2007 and found that Bob Dylan was cited the most, followed by the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Woody Guthrie, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and R.E.M.
Many judges in the courts now and law professors came of age during the “protest-era” 60s and were influenced in their perspectives on the world by the music coming out of that time. The judges have used the song lyrics in cases including those involving employment law and criminal cases.
According to the LA Times piece, a federal judge cited Dylan’s song “The Times They Are A-Changin” in an employment law case where he ruled that an employer was engaging in sex discrimination by excluding prescription drug coverage for contraceptives.
Some law professors use the song, “Hurricane,” to teach law students how to question and challenge the evidence presented by prosecutors. In that song, police confiscated evidence from a black boxer’s car during a traffic stop, even though they did not have “reasonable suspicion” that the driver had committed a crime, and he was later charged with and convicted of murder. The boxer, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, eventually had his murder conviction overturned after a judge ruled that he had been tried and convicted based on racism.
Judges hand down the law with help from Bob Dylan (Los Angeles Times)