Wikipedia Considered Reliable Authority by Many Judges

25 April 2012 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

Many noted Judges rely on Wikipedia as authority including defining “Blazing Saddles” and “happy hour,” but the US Supreme Court has not yet accepted Wikipedia as authority. The New York Times reported in 2007 that Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and well-known blogger, in Chicago claimed that “Wikipedia is a terrific resource.” Judge Posner went to say:

Partly because it so convenient, it often has been updated recently and is very accurate...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.

However in a recent ruling of US v Larson, US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Barbara Milano Keenan overturned a jury conviction for violating, and conspiring to violate, the animal fighting prohibition of the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2156(a) (the animal fighting statute) because Juror 177 searched Wikipedia for the definition of "sponsor," one of the elements of the offense under the animal fighting statute. The Wikipedia search was determined to be juror misconduct since Juror 177 relied on definitions not provided in court, but Judge Keenan also pointed out that definitions on Wikipedia are subject to change by public edits and therefore Wikipedia is not reliable. Which is an interesting position since Judge Posner feels the opposite.

It seems to me that Wikipedia is a reliable authority for many lawsuits and will be more widely accepted in the future. What do you think?

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Authors

Related Services