May 24, 2024

DealBook: Bob Dylan’s Legal Fan Club

It’s been a big week for Bob Dylan news.

On Wednesday Mr. Dylan played his first show in China, performing a set list that had to be sanctioned by the Ministry of Culture. (“The Times they Are Not a-Changin’” read a caption in the Financial Times.)

Closer to home, a group of legal scholars convened on Monday at Fordham Law School for a two-day conference on “Bob Dylan and the Law.” Academics presented papers on such topics as “Dylan as the Complete Trial Lawyer: Using Hurricane Carter to Teach Trial Skills” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll: Using Dylan’s Primer on Theory of the Case in the First Year.”

Mr. Dylan has long captivated the ivory tower. In 2006, Dartmouth College hosted a symposium called “Just a Series of Interpretations of Bob Dylan’s Lyrical Works: An Academic Conference.”

But the legal profession really has a thing for His Bobness. Mr. Dylan’s song lyrics are the most frequently cited by judicial opinions and law review articles, according to a paper by Alex Long, a law professor at the University of Tennessee. Legal scholars and judged cited Mr. Dylan 160 times with The Beatles a distant second at 74.

This brings us to why DealBook is delving into matters relating to Bobby D. David Zornow, the global head of litigation at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher Flom, is a serious Dylan devotee. He also has a busy white-collar criminal defense practice, representing a range of prominent defendants including Dr. Yves Benhamou, the French doctor facing insider trading charges, and Rajiv Goel, the former Intel executive who pleaded guilty to insider trading and testified in the trial of Raj Rajaratnam.

The 56-year-old Mr. Zornow only recently became fascinated with Mr. Dylan. His obsession began about five years ago after he saw Martin Scorcese’s documentary “No Direction Home.” Despite his newfound fandom, he’s got some serious Dylan cred, having attended the aforementioned Dartmouth conference and winning second place in a Slate magazine Dylan trivia contest (losing to another lawyer).

Mr. Zornow was the only practicing lawyer to speak at this week’s Fordham conference. He presented a paper called “Dylan’s Judgment on Judges: Are Power, Greed and Corruptible Seed All That There Is?” The “paper” is actually a mock indictment of “The Judges” brought by special assistant United States attorney Bob Dylan. The 10-page indictment quotes 27 Dylan lyrics — from songs as obscure as “Seven Curses” and “Percy’s Song” — that generally depict judges as, well, power hungry, greedy and corruptible.

Here’s DealBook’s favorite, from the song “Joey”:

“What time is it?” said the judge to Joey when they met
“Five to ten,” said Joey. The judge says, “that’s exactly what you get.’”

Here’s a copy of the mock legal brief:

Dylan and Judges

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