Wednesday, May 11, 2011

U.S. Judges' Love Affair With Bob Dylan

From the Los Angeles Times article Judges hand down the law with help from Bob Dylan:
"The protest era's vagabond poet is cited more often than any other songwriter in legal opinions and briefs. His ballads have become models for legal storytelling (...)"

"Dylan's music and values have imprinted themselves on the [American] justice system because his songs were the score playing during the formative years of the judges and lawyers now populating the nation's courthouses, colleges and blue-chip law firms, says Michael Perlin, a New York Law School professor who has used Dylan lyrics as titles for at least 50 published law journal articles."

"Perlin and others lured to the law by the moral siren songs of the 1960s credit Dylan with roles in passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, federal sentencing guidelines that purport to ensure more equitable prison terms and due process reforms prohibiting racial profiling."
The article cites a study by US law professor Alan Long from 2006 who examined legal databases to identify lyrics in U.S. court filings and scholarly publications. I had mentioned Long's study in a Library Boy post of October 4, 2006 entitled Popular Song Lyrics in Legal Writing.

The 10 most frequently cited pop music artists are, in order of decreasing importance:
  1. Dylan
  2. Beatles
  3. Bruce Springsteen
  4. Paul Simon
  5. Woody Guthrie
  6. The Stones
  7. Grateful Dead
  8. Simon & Garfunkel
  9. Joni Mitchell
  10. R.E.M.
The most popular Dylan line quoted by American judges: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

The Globe and Mail picked up the story yesterday: Dylan tops charts with U.S. judges.

The Toronto-based daily's take on the situation:
"A quick search of the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) database of judgments suggests that Canadian judges, who tend to have a drier, more no-nonsense style, are not likely to quote Mr. Dylan."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:57 pm


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