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Guess Which Circuits Cite to Wikipedia the Most

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on May 03, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Wikipedia, the online user-edited encyclopedia, is often maligned for getting things wrong. Yet federal appeals courts are increasingly citing Wikipedia in their rulings -- some much more often than others, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Seventh Circuit judges led the pack with 36 Wikipedia citations over the last five years, the Journal's Law Blog found. The Ninth Circuit was next, with 17 cites to Wikipedia since 2007; the Tenth Circuit cited the site eight times, while the Sixth Circuit cited it six times.

Other federal appeals courts cited Wikipedia less than five times over the last five years, according to the Journal. But is Wikipedia reliable? And what's the best way to cite to Wikipedia anyway?

The Fourth Circuit recently weighed in on Wikipedia's credibility issue. The court overturned convictions because a juror used Wikipedia for research, and noted the site's "open-access nature" raised questions about reliability.

But supporters of citing to Wikipedia argue the opposite. Some studies suggest that Wikipedia entries with a high volume of user involvement are actually more accurate than traditional, peer-edited encyclopedias, according to one lawyer's blog, called the Supreme Court of Texas Blog. (To be clear, the blog is not affiliated with the official Supreme Court of Texas.)

There are drawbacks, however. For example, one Wikipedia entry, quoted in a Texas appellate court decision in 2009, has since been revised and no longer says what the court said it did, according to SCOTXBlog.

But Wikipedia's "permalink" function appears to solve this problem, by providing a permanent link to the current version of the entry you're citing, the blog suggests.

Still, not all lawyers -- and not all courts -- are comfortable with citing to Wikipedia. The site has not (yet) been cited by the Federal Circuit, the D.C. Circuit, or the U.S. Supreme Court, the Journal reports.

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