The citation of Wikipedia in judicial opinions
|The Citation of Wikipedia in Judicial Opinions|
|Authors:||Lee F. Peoples|
|Citation:||Yale Journal of Law & Technology 12 : . 2009.|
|Publication type:||Journal article|
|Google Scholar cites:||Citations|
|Added by Wikilit team:||Added on initial load|
|Article:||Google Scholar BASE PubMed|
|Other scholarly wikis:||AcaWiki Brede Wiki WikiPapers|
|Web search:||Bing Google Yahoo! — Google PDF|
Wikipedia has been cited in over four hundred American judicial opinions. Courts have taken judicial notice of Wikipedia content, based their reasoning on Wikipedia entries, and decided dispositive motions on the basis of Wikipedia content. The impermanent nature of Wikipedia entries and their questionable quality raises a number of unique concerns. To date, no law review article has comprehensively examined the citation of Wikipedia in judicial opinions or considered its long-range implications for American law.
This article reports the results of an exhaustive study examining every American judicial opinion that cites a Wikipedia entry. The article begins with a discussion of cases that cite Wikipedia for a significant aspect of the case before the court. The impact of these citations on litigants’ constitutional and procedural rights, the law of evidence, judicial ethics, and the judicial role in the common law adversarial system are explored. Part II discusses collateral references to Wikipedia entries. Part III proposes a set of best practices for when and how Wikipedia should be cited. Detailed statistics on the quality of Wikipedia entries cited in judicial opinions and the completeness and accuracy of citations to Wikipedia entries are provided. The article concludes with a discussion of the impact of Wikipedia citations in judicial opinions on the future of the law.
"This article reports the results of an exhaustive study examining every American judicial opinion that cites a Wikipedia entry. The article begins with a discussion of cases that cite Wikipedia for a significant aspect of the case before the court. The impact of these citations on litigants' constitutional and procedural rights, the law of evidence, judicial ethics, and the judicial role in the common law adversarial system are explored."
|Topics:||Knowledge source for scholars and librarians|
|Wikipedia coverage:||Main topic|
|Research design:||Statistical analysis|
|Data source:||Archival records|
|Collected data time dimension:||N/A|
|Unit of analysis:||Article, N/A|
|Wikipedia data extraction:||Live Wikipedia|
|Wikipedia page type:||Article, N/A|
"The opinions examined in this article are evidence of the range of impact that a citation to Wikipedia can have on the case before the court, on future cases, and on the law as a whole. Some opinions reference Wikipedia for rhetorical flourishes or to define a non-essential term. But in other cases the reference to Wikipedia is used to support the court's reasoning, logic, or analysis. The most significant examples of the influence of Wikipedia include courts taking judicial notice of Wikipedia content and granting or denying summary judgment motions based in part on a Wikipdeia entry. Judges must exercise care when citing a Wikipedia entry because of the collaborative and constantly changing nature of its content. Courts should not take judicial notice of Wikipedia content. They should not rely upon a Wikipedia entry as the sole basis for their holding or reasoning or to demonstrate the existence or absence of a material fact in the context of a motion for summary judgment. Wikipedia entries can be useful in some limited situations for defining slang terms and for getting a sense of a term's common usage. Judges must be careful when conducting research on Wikipedia to not violate the recently updated Model Code of Judicial Conduct prohibiting ex parte research into the facts of cases before them. Action should be taken to ensure that if courts cite Wikipedia they do so in a way that allows future researchers, lawyers, and judges to view the Wikipedia entry exactly as it appeared when the court accessed it. The Bluebook should add a specific explanation that requires any citation to a wiki to include the title of the page, a permanent link to the entry cited, not just the entry's generic URL, and the date and time the page was visited. This citation rule should also be enacted as a local court rule at the federal and state level. Law librarians and legal research and writing professors have a role to play in training future lawyers and judges to use and cite Wikipedia appropriately."