Do NOT cite Wikipedia…unless you are in Federal Court

To the chagrin of Legal Writing professors nationwide, citing Wikipedia as a source is gaining traction in Federal Court.

The evolution from a question “should a judge cite Wikipedia?” to Federal Court routinely citing the peer edited, open source encyclopedia has been quick.

It appears the marketplace of ideas is willing to evolve with technology. Also, this is a testiment to the integrity of Wikipedia and its editors. Though, in the interest of full disclosure, to make a point in law school, I edited an article about the War of 1812. I replaced the Secretary of War with my name. For 24 hrs, I played an integral role in the War that gave us the Star Spangled Banner. I was promptly removed by the editors a day later. Who remember William Eustis anyway?

As one may expect, the stoic and antiquated SCOTUS remains resistant to allowing Wikipedia to enter the annals of its opinions. This is not surprising since the SCOTUS refuses to allow cameras to capture oral arguments.

6 Responses to Do NOT cite Wikipedia…unless you are in Federal Court

  1. TouroGrad says:

    A good friend of mine used to get drunk and write on wikipedia that various B-list celebrities died in helicopter crashes. Some of them stayed like that for months. Wikipedia should not be viewed as a legitimate source of information.

  2. keithrl says:

    FYI – I looked into this a year ago:

    http://associatesmind.com/2011/04/06/then-again-maybe-wikipedia-is-a-proper-legal-authority/

    Wikipedia actually maintains a page of court citations to wikipedia. And S.D.N.Y. Alfa Co. v. OAO Alfa Bank has a good discussion on citing wikipedia stating:

    “Thus, despite reasonable concerns about the ability of anonymous users to alter Wikipedia entries, the information provided there is not so inherently unreliable as to render inadmissible any opinion that references it.”

  3. alpha4centauri says:

    It’s not like Encyclopedia Britannica is error-free, either.

  4. TouroGrad says:

    @alpha
    That’s true, but I couldn’t drink a pint of whiskey and change Encyclopedia Britannica for the sake of humor, and I can do that to Wikipedia.

  5. splifton says:

    Maliciously editing Wikipedia is akin to that guy sitting all day at a swim up pool bar who takes countless shot/drinks and does not have the god damn common decency to get out of the pool every now and again to at least make it look like they are no emptying their bladder in the pool… Wikipedia is similar to a swim up bar, in that everyone loves the convenience and idea behind it, but all it takes is a few jack-asses to make you realize while you are getting drunk you are actually just swimming in piss…

    Lesson for the Day:
    Don’t be that guy…Don’t pee in pools…
    (showers and oceans are the only exceptions)

  6. theerraticesquire says:

    My rule of thumb is to use Wikipedia for (1) things you kind of know but have to double check (e.g., who really sang “If you like Pina Coladas”) or (2) a jumping off point to a more credible source.

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