The Citation of Wikipedia in Judicial Opinions

51 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2008 Last revised: 20 Jan 2010

Lee F. Peoples

Oklahoma City University - School of Law

Date Written: September 23, 2008

Abstract

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.

Keywords: wikipedia, judicial opinions, de-legalization, wiki, adjudicative facts, judges, judicial opinions, legal research, legal reasoning

JEL Classification: K00, K4

Suggested Citation

Peoples, Lee F., The Citation of Wikipedia in Judicial Opinions (September 23, 2008). Yale Journal of Law & Technology, Vol. 12, 2009-2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1272437

Lee F. Peoples (Contact Author)

Oklahoma City University - School of Law ( email )

2501 N. Blackwelder
Oklahoma City, OK 73106
United States
405-208-6030 (Phone)

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