Thursday, December 3, 2009
Good for this student! She's written a note that I think many readers of this blog will be interested in. Here are the details: Wagner, Amber L. Comment: Wikipedia Made Law? The Federal Judicial Citation of Wikipedia 26 J. Marshall J. Computer & Info L. 229 (2008). From the introduction:
Over three hundred federal judicial opinions have cited Wikipedia as a source. Most opinions cite Wikipedia in footnotes to define terms used in the opinion. Some judges, however, like the BIA in the Badasa case, have used Wikipedia as a source on which to base decisions. Judicial use of Wikipedia as a source of evidence or a basis for making decisions is a serious problem, because the nature of Wikipedia undermines the common law system. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that contains articles that anyone can create, alter, or revise. Additionally, Wikipedia is not only merely a secondary source, but the articles are subject to change on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. For these and other reasons this comment will explore, federal judicial opinions should not cite Wikipedia. Wikipedia may be a starting point for research, but this comment will discuss many of the reasons why federal judges and members of the federal bar should not cite Wikipedia as a source. Additionally, Wikipedia's reliability is questionable at best, and for this reason alone Wikipedia should not be cited as an authoritative source on any topic.
In Section II, this comment will explain how Wikipedia functions, and how articles are created and edited. This comment will then discuss, in Section III, major trends in federal judicial opinions that cite Wikipedia. Section III will also analyze several federal judicial opinions to determine the effect the citations to Wikipedia have on the common law. Finally, in Section IV, as a result of the precedential nature of judicial opinions, and the reverence due to judicial opinions, this comment will conclude that the Supreme Court and Congress should ban the citation of Wikipedia in federal judicial opinions and court filings.