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What not to cite

wikiIn this week’s VLW, Deborah Elkins recounts the unfortunate experience of a lawyer who went to court with the wrong weapon.  The lawyer argued using a case that — unknown to him — had been overruled.  We can now authoritatively add another “third rail” source that is sure to sidetrack, if not derail, your case: Wikipedia.

Opposing an Italian woman’s petition for asylum, government lawyers argued that her Ethiopian travel papers failed to establish her identity and nationality.  To back up their contentions, the lawyers cited articles in Wikipedia, the community-edited, on-line encyclopedia.  An immigration judge went along.  The Board of Immigration Appeals also agreed, although it questioned the use of Wikipedia material.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, in this opinion, found that the stain was too great to let the ruling stand.  The court held that reliance on Wikipedia was insufficient grounds for a ruling, citing several authorities that undermined the reliability of the site.  Back to the books.

By Peter Vieth

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