Alex B. Long


Bob Dylan, judiciary, judicial system


Judges at all levels in the United States judicial system have cited Bob Dylan far more often than any other popular music artist. The logical question then becomes, “why?” Why is Dylan (rather than John Lennon, Woody Guthrie, or some other prominent and sociallyconscious songwriter) the preferred songwriter for judges, and why do judges feel the need to cite Dylan’s lyrics to begin with? What are they hoping to convey to the reader about the legal issue at hand, the legal system in general, or about themselves that causes them to rely on the works of Dylan? What type of connection are they trying to make with the reader, and why are Dylan’s lyrics the preferred vehicle? Others have written about Dylan’s perceptions of the legal system as expressed in his lyrics and what these lyrics say about the United States legal system. A different focus, however—one that explores the question of what these judges are trying to communicate through their use of Dylan’s lyrics—may also yield interesting conclusions.

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