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U.S. Supreme Court

The F-Word Made Its Last Appearance in a Supreme Court Opinion in 1993

Posted May 2, 2012 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The F-word is becoming common parlance in some circles, but not at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The last time the court used the word in an opinion was in 1993, the New York Times reports. It was used in just one oral argument, by a lawyer representing a protester convicted for wearing a jacket at the Los Angeles courthouse with the phrase “F--- the draft.”

Between that 1971 oral argument and the court’s last use of the word, it appeared in nine Supreme Court decisions, often in a quotation of something a criminal had said, the Times says. It was used in the opinion on the draft protester, Cohen v. California. But the word was not uttered in the last two oral arguments concerning regulations by the Federal Communications Commission; one of the cases is pending.

“Popular culture has grown coarser over the years,” the Times says, "and the word is commonplace in hit songs and ubiquitous on cable television. The Supreme Court has moved in the opposite direction.”

The Times did not use the word in the story, calling it “the most versatile of the classic Anglo-Saxon swear words.”

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "ABC Lawyer Points to Unclothed Supreme Court Sculptures During Indecency Arguments"

ABA Journal: "A Fox Rerun: Justices Get a New Look at the Old Problem of Dirty Words"

ABAJournal.com: "Scalia Confounded by Prevalence of F-Word, Clear on Lack of Protection for Gays, Women"

ABAJournal.com: "Supreme Court Upholds ‘Fleeting Expletives’ Ban as Rational Policy"

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