Great books mean great decisions

My brother Peter and I share a love of literature and an interest
in law. On his last visit, he gave me a delightful article from the
ABA Journal, published
by the American Bar Association:


Author! Author!


Great books mean great decisions

By Richard Brust , June 2008 Issue

“College lit majors, review that book report you did on 1984, and brush up on your Shakespeare. It could help you brief your next federal case.

University of Chicago assistant law professor M. Todd Henderson searched federal appellate and U.S. Supreme Court opinions for citations to the great works. A student of the law and literature movement, Henderson chose literary passages that gave a decision emotional heft, discounting passing comments and references to an author’s legal problems—for example, James Joyce’s censorship battles.

In his essay, ‘Citing Fiction,’ in the winter 2008 edition of The Green Bag, Henderson lists the most frequently quoted writers. So take notes. Oh, and don’t just rely on the CliffsNotes—the judge will be grading you.

George Orwell (35 citations)

‘The black-mustachio’d face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said.’

• From: 1984

• Cited in: Florida v. Riley, 488 U.S. 445 (1989)…”

Quotations from Milton, Homer, Donne, Bolt, Camus, and Shakespeare
are also in this most quoted-in-law list. My favorite:

“… Homer (11)

‘Then I witnessed the torture of Sisyphus, as he wrestled with a huge rock with both hands. Bracing himself and thrusting with hands and feet he pushed the boulder uphill to the top. But every time, as he was about to send it toppling over the crest, its sheer weight turned it back, and once again towards the plain the pitiless rock rolled down. So once more he had to wrestle with the thing and push it up, while the sweat poured from his limbs and the dust rose high above his head.’

• From: The Odyssey

• Cited in: City of Carmel-by-the-Sea v. U.S. Dept. of Transporta­tion, 123 F.3d 1142 (9th Cir. 1997)…”

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