Words are Enough: The Troublesome Use of Photographs, Maps, and Other Images in Supreme Court Opinions

Posted: 14 Nov 1997  

Hampton Dellinger

Government of North Carolina - Department of Justice

Date Written: June 1997

Abstract

In this Commentary, Mr. Dellinger defines and analyses a heretofore unrecognized class of United States Supreme Court decisions: those in which a photograph, map, replica, or reproduction is attached to a Justice's opinion. Such attachments, all relying on visual or sight-based attributes that uniquely differentiate them from words, have appeared in a number of seminal decisions. Mr. Dellinger argues that the use of such attachments poses special dangers: because their neutrality and accuracy are so readily assumed, such attachments often elude the skepticism with which the written positions of Court opinions are generally reviewed. yet their inherent distortions and vulnerability to manipulation make the Justices' reliance on them problematic. Mr. Dellinger then argues that the Court should forgo any future reliance on attachments. In the alternative, the Justices, the companies that reproduce Court opinions, and readers must improve significantly the ways in which they respectively use, publish, and review these attachments.

Suggested Citation

Dellinger, Hampton, Words are Enough: The Troublesome Use of Photographs, Maps, and Other Images in Supreme Court Opinions (June 1997). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=11335

Hampton Dellinger (Contact Author)

Government of North Carolina - Department of Justice

2 E. Morgan St.
Raleigh, NC 27601-1447
919-733-3377 (Phone)
919-733-7491 (Fax)

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