Fun Judicial Opinions

I read a fun article, Judicial opinions that entertain by Ryan S. Perlin,  in the Daily Record Generation J.D. : A blog for young lawyers  about entertaining judicial opinions yesterday.  Examples of judicial opinions as detective novel and as poetry include an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court.  Of course, many quotes from movies and music lyrics are mentioned, too.

After reading the article above I tried a  Westlaw search of all state and federal cases for opinions mentioning Bob Dylan.  Some were actual cases involving Bob Dylan but many were quoting his song lyrics.

Most often quoted (13) is from Bob Dylan’s  Subterranean Homesick Blues (Columbia Records 1965): “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.

Quoted only twice  was “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” Bob Dylan, Like A Rolling Stone, on Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia Records 1965).

Other Dylan songs mentioned were “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Hurricane,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times they are A’Changin,” and “Gotta Serve Somebody”.

In  U.S. v. Bullock, 454 F.3d 637, a discussion of the length of a prison sentence is illustrated by a long list of song lyrics in footnote 1 of the opinion:

“One hundred years is a long time-one year longer, in fact, than the standard lyrical shorthand for an unimaginably long sentence. See, e.g., Bruce Springsteen, “Johnny 99” (“Well the evidence is clear, gonna let the sentence, son, fit the crime / Prison for 98 and a year and we’ll call it even, Johnny 99.”); Bob Dylan, “Percy’s Song” (“It may be true he’s got a sentence to serve / But ninety-nine years, he just don’t deserve.”); Johnny Cash, “Cocaine Blues” (“The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen / Ninety-nine years in the Folsom pen / Ninety-nine years underneath that ground / I can’t forget the day I shot that bad bitch down.”); Ed Bruce, “Ninety-Seven More To Go” (“Ninety-nine years go so slow / When you still got ninety-seven more to go.”); Bill Anderson, “Ninety-Nine” (“The picture’s still in front of my eyes, the echo in my ears / When the jury said he’s guilty and the judge said ninety-nine years.”); Chloe Bain, “Ninety-Nine Years” (“The sentence was sharp, folks, it cut like a knife / For ninety-nine years, folks, is almost for life.”); Guy Mitchell, “Ninety-Nine Years” (“Ninety-nine years in the penitentiary, baby, baby, wait for me, around twenty-fifty-five we’ll get together dead or alive.”)”.

I tried searches with other musical artists but although there would be lots of  hits, for example when searching The Beatles, most were cases involving the music business.  A search for mentions of the Grateful Dead also brought up cases in which the suspect or defendant was wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt.

By Joan Bellistri

Law Library Director for the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library

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