Wikipedia used in court

A simple search of published court decisions shows that Wikipedia is frequently cited by judges around the country, involving serious issues and the bizarre "” such as a 2005 tax case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals concerning the definition of "beverage" that involved hundreds of thousands of dollars, and, just this week, a case in Federal District Court in Florida that involved the term "booty music" as played during a wet T-shirt contest.

More than 100 judicial rulings have relied on Wikipedia, beginning in 2004, including 13 from circuit courts of appeal, one step below the Supreme Court. (The Supreme Court thus far has never cited Wikipedia.)

This from the New York Times article entitled “Courts Turn to Wikipedia, but Selectively” (login required).

It goes on:

"Wikipedia is a terrific resource," said Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago. "Partly because it so convenient, it often has been updated recently and is very accurate." But, he added: "It wouldn't be right to use it in a critical issue. If the safety of a product is at issue, you wouldn't look it up in Wikipedia."

(emphasis added by me).

This is something we’ve been talking about in classes lately – people will use anything as long as it’s convenient – and easy to use. The validity of sources does not seem to be a concern – and this is a problem. I find it interesting that people have yet to learn from the mistakes made by those before them – but that is the way it is.

Which brings us back to my most recent topic of ranting. A lot of us are trying to come up with ways to keep up with the times – new technology, new spaces, etc etc. What we need to keep in mind while looking in to making all of these changes is how we’re going to make finding the right information easy – because in the end that’s what people seem to care about (well, most people).

[news report found via LibVibe]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *