Judiciary

The Supreme Court Spurns Wikipedia, But Federal Appeals Courts Cited It Nearly 100 Times in 5 Years


Federal appeals courts are increasingly citing the reader-edited encyclopedia Wikipedia, though the trend has not spread to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal appeals courts have cited Wikipedia about 95 times in the last five years, according to a search by the Wall Street Journal Law Blog. In the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, for example, judges referred to Wikipedia entries on the movie Blazing Saddles and on an ailment known as an anal fissure. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, on the other hand, relied on a Wikipedia summary about Elvis Presley.

The Law Blog tallied the number of Wikipedia cites by federal appeals courts since 2007, when a New York Times article noted court references to the open-access encyclopedia. A secondary cite—referring to a Wikipedia cite by a lower court or a party’s brief—didn’t count. The Times article noted that federal appeals courts had cited Wikipedia only 13 times in the prior three years.

The Law Blog found that the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited Wikipedia 36 times, more than any other federal appeals court. Next was the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which cited Wikipedia 17 times.

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