Ladies and gentlemen: The Rolling Stones

August 5, 2014 


Mick Jagger performs at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, as part of the Rolling Stones “50 and Counting” tour on May 3, 2013. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/MCT)


— The original bad boys of rock-and-roll make it into an opinion issued Tuesday by the normally straitlaced U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Here’s Judge Janice Rogers Brown, kicking off her opinion in a case entitled, perhaps appropriately, Stop This Insanity Inc. Employee Leadership Fund v. Federal Election Commission:

“The iconic musician Mick Jagger famously mused, ‘You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find, you get what you need,’” Brown wrote.

So that’s pretty hip, right from the start. (Though, stylistically, it would have worked better without the “iconic musician” bit.) It gets better, when the judge then dutifully and straight-facedly includes the appropriate citation: “The Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, on Let It Bleed (Decca Records 1969).”

But like Keith Richards once said, or maybe it was Anton Chekhov, if you put a gun in the first act, you must fire it in in the third. So, too, with starting off a judicial opinion with a cultural reference; it all but demands closure of the dramatic circle, by ending with a related cultural reference, as well.

And, yup, here it is from Judge Brown, in the concluding verse of her 13-page decision:

“We may never know why the Appellants wish to do things the hard way. The Constitution, however, does not guarantee a right to be obstinate,” Brown wrote. “Try as it might, STII will get no satisfaction.”

Judge Brown, come to find out, has a penchant for rock-and-roll quotes, with this New York Times profile recalling how she once quoted in a speech from Procol Harem’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Procol Harem!

Suits & Sentences will now solicit recommendations for other rock-and-roll lyrical references that deserve citation in legal opinions.

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