Posts Tagged ‘Wikipedia’

Professionalism and Wikipedia

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Despite the title to this post, there is NO connection between professionalism and Wikipedia when it comes to legal or academic research. When I point this out to students or practicing paralegals I generally get responses indicating that the listeners are somewhat stunned by the comment, but they are not all the same. The “stunning” seems to be of two types: those who are stunned because they cannot believe anyone uses Wikipedia to do research and those who cannot understand why I am opposed to its use for these purposes, i.e., they don’t believe anyone really cares if you get your information from Wikipedia. I get similar responses on the issue of citing authority: Some can’t imagine that any legal professional would fail to cite authority and some who c do not believe anyone really cares.

Aside from the many documented instances of Wikipedia being wrong, e.g., reporting Senators Kennedy and Byrd as dead long before the actual events and Rush Limbaugh being hoaxed via Wikipedia today’s passes on a story from Legal Blog Watch in a post entitled “Judge Warns Defense Lawyers in Pitino Extortion Case: Don’t Crib Law Discussion from Wikipedia” in which it is clear that some people do care. This is especially important to legal professionals when the “someone” is a federal judge:

A federal judge has issued a legal writing warning to lawyers who sought a new trial for a woman convicted a trying to extort money from University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.

The defense should not have copied its discussion of ineffective assistance from Wikipedia, U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson of Louisville wrote in a February opinion (PDF). His concerns are outlined in footnote 4 of his opinion denying a new trial for the defendant, Karen Sypher, Legal Blog Watch reports.

“The court notes here that defense counsel appears to have cobbled much of his statement of the law governing ineffective assistance of counsel claims by cutting and pasting, without citation, from the Wikipedia website,” Simpson wrote.

“The court reminds counsel that such cutting and pasting, without attribution, is plagiarism. The court also brings to counsel’s attention Rule 8.4 of the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct, which states that it is professional misconduct for an attorney to ‘engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.’ …

“Finally, the court reminds counsel that Wikipedia is not an acceptable source of legal authority in the United States District Courts.”

Legal Blog Watch credits Legal Writing Prof Blog for noting the footnote

Professionals do not rely on Wikipedia.  Professionals cite their sources in work submitted to courts. Period.