Law Text Culture


We all know that stories create culture and that law creates culture; it may well follow (this is only a probabilistic judgment) that the stories that one finds in judicial opinions might be especially powerful in creating culture. There are two problems with the thesis that judicial storytelling can be powerful. The first problem is that ordinary citizens do not read these stories and could only hear about them through the mediation of television and the newspapers. This objection is factually correct; judicial opinions do not speak directly to the average citizen. However, the objection errs in supposing that the indirect is less powerful than the direct. In family life, the indirect influence of parental example is more important than the direct influence of parental instruction. So also in school, the direct instruction about proper conduct is far less important than the indirect absorption of the unspoken mores. Why could not the same be true for judicial opinions?