US Supreme Court Justices Prefer Shakespeare

According to a recent article about the favourite literary references used by current US Supreme Court justices in their judgments, Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll top the list.

This was followed by:

  • George Orwell
  • Charles Dickens
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Aesop
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Faulkner, Herman Melville and J.D. Salinger (equal number of references)

This reminds me of one of my posts on (way back in 2006!) on Popular Song Lyrics in Legal Writing. Oklahoma City University School of Law professor Alex B. Long did a study of citations to pop music stars in law journals.

In descending list of “popularity” among legal scholars:

  1. Dylan
  2. Beatles
  3. Bruce Springsteen
  4. Paul Simon
  5. Woody Guthrie
  6. The Stones
  7. Grateful Dead
  8. Simon & Garfunkel
  9. Joni Mitchell
  10. R.E.M.

As I wrote:

“According to Long, R.E.M. is the only alternative or post-punk artist represented in the Top Ten, ‘and even their popularity can be explained in large measure by the fact that lawyers just seem to get a kick out of the title of their song, It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)‘.”

What might the situation be in Canada?

Referring to the topic of cultural/musical references, the Globe and Mail in 2011 wrote:

“A quick search of the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) database of judgments suggests that Canadian judges, who tend to have a drier, more no-nonsense style, are not likely to quote Mr. Dylan.”



  1. Seems like the courts have loosened up since 2011:

    Here’s a cite to Dylan from Nova Scotia (no lyrics, reference to the whole song):

    Here’s an Ontario court quoting Dylan (before para. 1):

    But well before 2011, we’ve had courts refer, inter alia, to the physiognomy of one of the greats of jazz trumpet, such as this court sitting in Cayuga: