Bob Dylan and the Law
Who knew the nation had a "leading authority on the citation of popular music in judicial opinions"? The authority turns out to be Alex Long, a law professor at the University of Tennessee. Prof. Long tells us that Chief Justice Roberts' dissent in Sprint Communications v. APCC (a case Adam Liptak accurately describes as "an achingly boring dispute between pay phone companies and long distance carriers") is "a landmark opinion." Not because of the legal analysis, mind you, but because it "was almost certainly the first use of a rock lyric to buttress a legal proposition in a Supreme Court decision."
“The absence of any right to the substantive recovery means that respondents cannot benefit from the judgment they seek and thus lack Article III standing,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “ ‘When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.’ Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone, on Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia Records 1965).”
Prof. Long reports that Dylan is a favorite of lower court judges, having been quoted 26 times, most often for "You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" (from "Subterranean Homesick Blues"). The professor notes that the Chief Justice (or his law clerk) got the lyric wrong, both as a quotation and as to its meaning. [more...]
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