Ever fascinated with Wikipedia as legitimate support for meaningful argument, I found this entry by John Gregory at Slaw.ca noteworthy: despite the efforts of the federal attorneys, an appeals court struck down the use of a Wikipedia entry to challenge the status of travel documents in an immigration case. John Timmer at ars technica reported on the incident, with the sweeping statement that court is the one place everyone agrees that Wikipedia does not belong. The case, Lamilem Badasa v. Michael B. Mulkasey, Attorney General of the United States (Court of Appeals opinion linked here) is now back with the Board of Immigration Appeals for review of whether factual grounds exist for the argument against Badasa’s petition apart from Wikipedia entries.
The Court of Appeals did recite a prior case and an article by R. Jason Richards published in Trial, April 2008 that I reference in an earlier blog entry of my own to substantiate its incredulity at the use of Wikipedia. The cites and quotes bear repeating here:
See also Campbell v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs., 69 Fed. Cl. 775, 781 (Fed. Cl. 2006) (observing that a review of the Wikipedia website “reveals a pervasive and, for our purposes, disturbing set of disclaimers”); R. Jason Richards, Courting Wikipedia, 44 Trial 62 (Apr. 2008) (“Since when did a Web site that any Internet surfer can edit become an authoritative
source by which law students could write passing papers, experts could provide credible testimony, lawyers could craft legal arguments, and judges could issue precedents?”).
Badasa, supra, no. 07-2276 p. 3 (8th Cir. August 29, 2008) (slip op.).
On the other side (because there always is another side), Lisa Spiro at Digital Scholarship in the Humanities recently posted regarding the growing use of Wikipedia as a respectable academic source. The post is quite interesting and informative and I do recommend a read to see the data, get a good overview of the criticisms and examine Lisa’s responses.
While I agree with the tone of Timmer’s comment, quoted above, I don’t agree with the factual substance and will point the reader back to my original post about the growing number of citations to blogs and wikis in legal opinions. Whether you love or hate Wikipedia, I say this to those who wish to rely on Wikipedia to support their legal arguments: “caveat emptor!”