Judges Really Like to Quote Bob Dylan

Even Chief Justice Roberts has cited his lyrics
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2011 5:44 PM CDT
Bob Dylan Is US Courts' Most-Quoted Musician
In this Dec. 8, 1975 file photo, Bob Dylan performs before a sold-out crowd in New York's Madison Square Garden.   (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine, File)

When judges want to give their opinions a lyrical flourish, many turn first to Bob Dylan. He’s the most-cited musician in court opinions and briefs, experts tell the Los Angeles Times. That’s because his early songs give voice to political and legal concerns—and they emerged when today’s judges were “coming of age,” an expert says. “The chance to throw in a line from your favorite artist is tempting, a chance to let your freak flag fly.”

That’s particularly true for Seattle-based federal judge Robert Lasnik, who remembers hearing Dylan’s songs on the radio for the first time as a teen. “Suddenly there was someone speaking a certain kind of truth to you,” he says. In a case on indefinite detention, he quoted Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom”; in a contraceptives case, he referred to “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The phenomenon reaches as high as the Supreme Court’s chief justice, who cited “Like a Rolling Stone” in a 2008 pay phone industry ruling. (More Bob Dylan stories.)

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