U.S. Supreme court

Justices favor William Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll in literary references, study finds

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Illustration of William Shakespeare. Image from Shutterstock.

Justice Antonin Scalia is the most literary justice currently on the court, according to a study put together in response to a publication’s call for top 10 rankings involving the U.S. Supreme Court.

Scalia received the No. 1 ranking based on a search of the current justices’ opinions for references of 91 of the greatest literary fiction authors and their work, the National Law Journal reports in its Supreme Court Brief. References to authors of popular fiction weren’t included, nor were biblical references.

The literary authors most often cited by the current justices were William Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll, who each got 16 references.

University of California at Hastings law professor Scott Dodson and his wife, Ami, a senior communications writer at the school, collaborated on the study after Green Bag sought essays on top 10 studies of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Scalia had 39 literary references to 15 authors, followed by Justices Stephen G. Breyer (15 references to 12 authors), Clarence Thomas (11 references to nine authors), Anthony M. Kennedy (eight references to eight authors), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (seven references to five authors), Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. (two references to two authors), and Samuel A. Alito Jr. (one reference to one author). Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan had none. (Kagan’s references to Dr. Seuss and the author of Spider-Man comics weren’t included because those authors weren’t among the 91 literary greats as determined by the study authors.)

The Dodsons point out that Scalia has been on the court the longest among the current justices, and has written the most opinions, giving him more opportunity to showcase his literacy. He also holds the No. 1 spot, however, when the study ranked the justices by citations per opinion authored.

Most-cited authors Shakespeare and Carroll were followed by George Orwell (eight references), Charles Dickens (six references), Aldous Huxley (four references) and Aesop (three references). Four authors each got two references (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Faulkner, Herman Melville and J.D. Salinger). Twenty-two others were each cited once, including Franz Kafka, Leo Tolstoy and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Fifty-nine other authors included in the Dodsons’ search weren’t cited at all, including Albert Camus, Toni Morrison, Edgar Allan Poe, James Joyce, Harper Lee and Ayn Rand.

The Dodsons’ Green Bag article is here (PDF); it contains 16 literary references, the authors reveal in a footnote.

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