I think that it’s probably wrong, in almost all situations, to use a dictionary in the courtroom. Dictionary definitions are written with a lot of things in mind, but rigorously circumscribing the exact meanings and connotations of terms is not usually one of them…It’s easy to stack the deck by finding a definition that does or does not highlight a nuance that you’re interested in.

Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary, remarking on the place of consulting dictionaries in the court room: via NYT

It is one of the surest indexes of a mature and developed jurisprudence not to make a fortress out of the dictionary, but to remember that statutes always have some purpose or object to accomplish, whose sympathetic and imaginative discovery is the surest guide to their meaning.

Judge Learned Hand, writing in a 1945 decision

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