Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

Dylan's Judgment on Judges: Power and Greed and Corruptible Seed Seem to Be All That There Is

Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

Dylan's Judgment on Judges: Power and Greed and Corruptible Seed Seem to Be All That There Is

Article excerpt

   A. Summary of Allegations
   B. Background
   C. Count One: Abuse of Power
   D. Count Two: Greed
   E. Count Three: Corruptible Seed
   F. Conclusion
Brady Letter


I am neither an academic nor a life-long Dylan fan. I am a practicing lawyer (white-collar criminal defense) and a recent convert to the Dylan obsession (after having watched Martin Scorseses's 2005 documentary No Direction Home). But like many late-in-life converts, I have fallen hard (nearly twenty concerts since 2006). When Professor Bruce Green (a former colleague in the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York) indulged my mania by inviting me to participate in Fordham Law School's conference, Dylan and the Law, I gravitated toward exploring Dylan's view of the judge. I had the impression that judges and "judge-like" characters popped up frequently in Dylan's songs. I was right about that, but on closer examination I was unprepared for Dylan's unremittingly negative portrayal of the most iconic figure in our justice system. Indeed, it struck me that one way to capture this bleak landscape would be to style my paper in the form of an "Indictment" against judges brought by Bob Dylan, in the role of prosecutor. What follows is that "Indictment" (and an accompanying Brady letter). I am not sure this piece fully explains why Dylan relegates judges to such monochromatic tones, when so much of his work captures life's complexity, nuance, and odd juxtapositions. Perhaps the answer lies in Dylan's preoccupation with the border between the sacred and the profane, between God on one side and the judge (as the ultimate embodiment of civil society) on the other--the gray area where Dylan performs his magic.




Hon. Bruce A. Green





A. Summary of Allegations

The Grand Jury alleges as follows: 1. The United States Attorney, through Special Assistant United States Attorney Bob Dylan, a/k/a Robert Allen Zimmerman, a/k/a Zimmy, (1)

2. brings this indictment against The Judges, who over the generations repeatedly have failed to meet their obligations to dispense justice. Indeed, it can be said of The Judges:

   ... God is in His heaven.
   And we all want what's his
   But power and greed and corruptible seed
   Seem to be all that there is (2)

In this Indictment, the grand jury alleges various overt acts of misuse of power, greed and corruptible seed.

B. Background

3. Judges are empowered by society and by our laws to impose their judgments on their fellow man, but it should be recognized at the outset that no man should relish judging another. "Don't wanna judge nobody, don't wanna be judged." (3) The righteous know well the dangers of rendering judgments, such as the lover who is "true, like ice, like fire" and "knows too much to argue or to judge." (4)

4. In this context, judges have a special responsibility to exercise their powers benevolently, as though they were being judged themselves. The evidence shows, however, that judges repeatedly fail to do so. Instead, they hold themselves apart from the rest of us, cloistered together.

   I glanced into the chamber where the judges were talking
   Darkness was everywhere, it smelled like a tomb. (5)

5. Too often judges manifest bias and prejudice instead of righteousness and fairness.

   The judge, he holds a grudge
   He's gonna call on you
   But he's badly built
   And he walks on stilts
   Watch out he don't fall on you. (6)

AS a result, too often we must:

   Ring them bells for the blind and the deaf
   Ring them bells for all of us who are left
   Ring them bells for the chosen few
   Who will judge the many when the game is through. … 
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