A recent article in the Los Angeles Times by Carol J. Williams, notes that Bob Dylan is the most-cited artist in legal filings and court opinions. The singer-songwriter’s lyrics are often used in employment law rulings. According to the LA Times, several California appellate court rulings have used the Dylan line, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” to point out that expert witnesses aren’t necessary for certain common-sense knowledge.
A federal judge also used Dylan’s song, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” in his ruling that said employers could not exclude contraceptives from employee prescription drug plans because to do so was sex discrimination. Justice Antonin Scalia used the same line last year when he was disagreeing with his fellow justices in another employment law case.
Scalia believed that the justices should have made a decision on a case asking whether an employee can have any expectation of privacy when using email at work. Scalia said that just saying, “The times they are a-changin’,” was shirking the responsibility the justices had to actually make a ruling in the case.
Williams notes in her piece that many judges on the bench today were coming of age during the protest era and the music from the time remains part of who they are and how they see the world. The other musicians cited most often in court rulings after Dylan, as found by a University of Texas law professor, are the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Woody Guthrie, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and R.E.M.
Judges hand down the law with help from Bob Dylan (Los Angeles Times)