“The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Chimes of Freedom” and “Hurricane” are all songs often quoted in legal papers and court opinions. They are also all songs by Bob Dylan, who has been found to be the most-often cited musician in court. A law professor analyzed legal databases and found him to be the most cited, as reported in a recent article by Carol J. Williams in the Los Angeles Times.
Many of the judges serving on the bench today were growing up and figuring out who they were and how they thought about the world during the 60s, and the music of the era apparently had a big influence. The Times piece cites several instances when Dylan songs were used to make a point in litigation or in a court ruling. Last year even the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia used a Dylan line in admonishing his fellow justices for failing to rule on an employment law case.
The case involved determining the limits to an employee’s expectation of privacy from their employer while using e-mail at work. According to Williams, Scalia said, “‘The times they are a-changin’ is a feeble excuse for disregard of duty.”
The same Dylan line was quoted by a federal judge in Seattle in a ruling that employers could not exclude contraceptives from employee prescription drug plans. He said that doing so amounted to sex discrimination.
Other judges have quoted Dylan’s line, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” to point out how expert witnesses are not necessary when a lay person can easily infer what is going on.
Other often-quoted musicians include the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and Simon & Garfunkel. Justices have, for example, quoted Paul Simon’s line, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
Judges hand down the law with help from Bob Dylan (Los Angeles Times)