I maintain a dataset of US court opinions that reference emojis and emoticons. I have compiled the dataset using keyword alerts in Westlaw and Lexis, supplemented by a few opinions I’ve found other ways. The latest version enumerates a total of 586 opinions through the end of 2021. Most case references are merely that–the court simply notes the presence of a symbol as part of reciting evidence in the case. Courts rarely display the symbols in their opinions; it happened in less than 10% of the 2021 opinions I indexed.
The chart below depicts the number of cases by year, further divided by references to emoticons or emojis [FN]. As you can see, court references to emojis and emoticons continue to grow at an exponential rate. I found 166 cases in 2021 (so far), a 23% increase over 2020.
[Footnote: courts sometimes clearly mislabel the symbol. Furthermore, where an opinion references both emojis and emoticons, I counted those only in the emoji category. There are many other caveats to the emoji/emoticon breakdown and the dataset generally–ask me if you want more details. The bottom line is to treat the dataset as a directional indicator, not as a quantitatively precise report.]