There has been a lot of attention paid to Chief Justice John Roberts citing Rock and Roll legend, Bob Dylan, in his dissent in the case Sprint v. AT&T. Here is the excerpt from Roberts’ dissent:
“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).”
According to this New York Times article by Adam Liptak, Bob Dylan’s lyrics have been cited in 26 legal opinions in lower courts around the country, as well as other Rock legends. Roberts’ predecessor, William Rehnquist, also cited classical music group Gilbert and Sullivan in an 1980 dissent in the case of Richmond, Inc v. Virginia.
What other lyrics are courts citing? A full breakdown, listed in an accompanying New York Times chart, reads like a Who’s Who of ’60s and ’70s musical legends: the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and even the Grateful Dead.
Even though the courts, public, and legal community have fun with Justices citing song lyrics in decisions, it’s ironic that that many in the same community have issues with citing international law. In the past few years, Justice Scalia and Thomas, as well as Rehnquist, have chastised judges over the use of international law in opinions. Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was among the Justices who have shown not to have an issue with using international law. The question then must be asked, why are song lyrics preferred over international law in citations?