Back in 2014, a Twitter exchange with Judge Dillard prompted an article on AboveTheLaw discussing the reliability of Wikipedia as a resource.1I would be remiss not to mention that in a bit of I-see-what-you-did-there, shortly after our Twitter exchange and my post, Judge Dillard wrote an opinion citing Wikipedia, for the definition of Twitter. – “Twitter is an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as ‘tweets.’” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter (site last visited April 1, 2014) Wheeler v. The State, A14A0125, (GA Ct App May 16, 2014)

Last year, I updated my research here, Is Wikipedia A Reliable Legal Authority? (2017 Update).

It’s 2018, so let’s see how some recent opinions cite (or reject) Wikipedia as an authority.

Is Wikipedia A Reliable Legal Authority? (2018 Update)

1st Circuit

Court relies on Wikipedia for knowledge of pop culture references.

For anyone not up on pop culture: Wonder Woman is a made-up superhero of comic book, television, and movie fame.

Wonder WomanWikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonder_Woman (last visited Jan. 3, 2018). So is Flash Gordon. Flash Gordon, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_Gordon (last visited Jan. 3, 2018). Fat Albert is a cartoon character created by Bill Cosby. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Albert_and_the_Cosby_Kids (last visited Jan. 3, 2018). Tony Tiger—a/k/a “Tony the Tiger”—is a cartoon spokesperson for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal. Tony the Tiger, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_the_Tiger (last visited Jan. 3, 2018). Chester Cheeto—a/k/a “Chester Cheetah”—is a cartoon spokesperson for Frito Lay’s Cheetos snacks. Chester Cheeto, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Cheetah (last visited Jan. 3, 2018). L.L. Bean is a Maine-based outdoor clothing and equipment retailer. L.L. Bean, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.L.Bean (last visited Jan. 3, 2018). Coco Puff—a variant spelling of “Cocoa Puffs”—is a chocolate-flavored cereal made by General Mills. Cocoa Puffs, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoa_Puffs (last visited Jan. 3, 2018). And Filet O’fish—a variant spelling of “Filet-O-Fish”—is a fish sandwich sold by McDonald’s, a fast-food restaurant chain. Filet-O-Fish, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filet-O-Fish (last visited Jan. 3, 2018).

U.S. v. Stepanets, 879 F.3d 367, 371 (1st Cir. 2018)

2nd Circuit

A District Court relies on Wikipedia for knowledge of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment.

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) was created in 1996 by Ziad Nasreddine in Montreal, Quebec. It was validated in the setting of mild cognitive impairment and has subsequently been adopted in numerous other settings clinically. A score of 26 or over is considered to be normal. Montreal Cognitive AssessmentWikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Cognitive_Assessment (last visited June 14, 2018).

Pinsky v. Berryhill, 3:17-CV-524 (MPS), 2018 WL 3054672, at *6 (D. Conn. June 20, 2018)

3rd Circuit

A District Court in the 3rd Circuit is in disagreement with itself.

First up, the Court relies on Wikipedia for a definition of Hypnagogia.

Hypnogogic hallucinations occur during a “threshold consciousness” phase between sleep and waking. Hypnagogia, WIKIPEDIA, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypnagogia (last updated Dec. 30, 2017). Hypnogogic hallucinations include sleep paralysis, a state of lucidity during sleep thought to explain the creation of stories of demonic possession, near-death experiences, and even alien abduction. Sleep paralysis, WIKIPEDIA, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_paralysis (last updated Jan. 19, 2018).

Rosa v. Berryhill, 2:16-CV-5923, 2018 WL 1442893, at *12 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 31, 2018)

A mere twenty days later…it’s “an inherently unreliable source of information.”

To support her argument, Plaintiff submits as evidence an article from Wikipedia—an inherently unreliable source of information—and Defendant’s own website, both of which merely state that Defendant owns Sands Bethlehem, a fact that is uncontested by Defendant. This evidence does nothing to show that Defendant’s connections to Pennsylvania are “so substantial and of such a nature as to render [it] at home in [Pennsylvania].” Daimler, 134 S. Ct. at 761 n.19.

Esposito v. Las Vegas Sands Corp., CV 17-2936, 2018 WL 1010627, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 21, 2018)

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

4th Circuit

A District Court relies on Wikipedia for knowledge of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a standardized psychometric test of adult personality and psychopathology.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Multiphasic_Personality_Inventory (last visited July 2, 2018).

SEQUOYA M. RUCKER, Pl., v. NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commr. of the Soc. Sec. Administration, Def.., 217CV01980RMGMGB, 2018 WL 3543917, at *6 (D.S.C. July 2, 2018).

5th Circuit

In March, a District Court noted that “Courts in this circuit have held that Wikipedia is an unreliable source of information.”

Dr. Tsao admits that no peer reviewed articles support her theory that a prolonged stimulation period has adverse effects on the quality of an IVF patient’s eggs. (Dkt. 42-2 at 144:5-12). In addition, and perhaps because she has no training as a reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Tsao used Wikipedia as a source for at least some research and support of her opinions on reproductive technology. (Dkt. 42-2 at 96:1-5, 96:25-97:4). Courts in this circuit have held that Wikipedia is “an unreliable source of information” and have warned against reliance on it and other similarly unreliable internet sources. Bing Shun Li v. Holder, 400 Fed.Appx. 854, 857-58 (5th Cir. 2010); Smartphone Techs. LLC v. Research in Motion Corp., No. 6:10-cv-74, 2012 WL 489112, at *5 n.3 (E.D. Tex. Feb. 13, 2012) (noting that the information on Wikipedia is not only unreliable, but subject to change on a day-to-day basis).

Tsao v. Ferring Pharm., Inc., 4:16-CV-01724, 2018 WL 1468265, at *8 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 26, 2018)

But in July, another District Court relied on Wikipedia for the definition of Automated Retail.

For example: unattended gas pumps, vending machines, automated car washes, bike share kiosks, etc. See also Automated Retail, Wikipedia (available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automated_retail).

SEVEN NETWORKS, LLC, Pl., v. GOOGLE LLC, Def.., 2:17-CV-00442-JRG, 2018 WL 3640815, at *15 (E.D. Tex. July 19, 2018)

Again,  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

6th Circuit

A District Court relies on Wikipedia for a list of counties in Ohio.

This one is particularly interesting to me because there are plenty of other resources a Court could reference for this information. Certainly the Ohio state government maintains some sort of publicly accessible list of the counties within its borders.

Yet it illustrates the pervasiveness of Wikipedia. It is the immediate, on-hand resource. It is the most convenient and easily accessible resource for this kind of information, so people (including judges) rely on it.

The average county population in Ohio is 131,096. Both Franklin and Cuyahoga Counties have over 1.2 million residents. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, List of Counties in Ohio, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_counties_in_Ohio (last visited March 29, 2018).

Ball v. Kasich, 307 F. Supp. 3d 701, 717 (S.D. Ohio 2018)

7th Circuit

A District Court relies on Wikipedia for the definition of Dip (exercise).

“To perform a dip, the exerciser hangs from a dip bar or from a set of rings with their arms straight down and shoulders over their hands, then lowers their body until their arms are bent to a 90 degree angle at the elbows, and then lifts their body up, returning to the starting position.” Wikipedia, “Dip (exercise),” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dip_(exercise) (visited July 11, 2018).

Justi v. Wexford Health Services, 16-CV-396-JPG-SCW, 2018 WL 3471153, at *1 (S.D. Ill. July 19, 2018)

8th Circuit

A District Court expounds a bit on why litigants may rely on Wikipedia. (Emphasis added below)

iv. Citation To Wikipedia
Defendant contends that Wikipedia is an unreliable source and reference to it about AB–FUBINACA was done with reckless disregard for the truth because anyone with internet access can contribute to or edit a Wikipedia page or “stub.” He argues that the use of the website in the “Orchard Drive” affidavit is further evidence that affiants were not properly schooled in the language of advanced science or the academic hierarchy of proper source material to be cited. While it can be problematic for the government to rely on Wikipedia as evidence in some circumstances, the record does not support that the use of the website here was done with reckless disregard for the truth under Franks. See Badasa v. Mukasey, 540 F.3d 909 (8th Cir. 2008)(remanding asylum case where Department of Homeland Security offered evidence from Wikipedia before an immigration judge); See also Campbell v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs., 69 Fed. Cl. 775, 781 (Fed. Cl. 2006) (noting that a review of the Wikipedia website “reveals a pervasive and, for our purposes, disturbing set of disclaimers”); But see United States v. Bazaldua, 506 F.3d 671, 673 n.2 (8th Cir. 2007)(citing to Wikipedia for a definition of a term). In this case, defendant Wolfe has not demonstrated that the Wikipedia material was false, altered or interpreted by affiants with reckless disregard for the truth. If Wikipedia was the only source upon which the affiants relied, the court might take a different view. Affiants did also cite to 1, 2 Forensic Toxicology and the Wikipedia article does cite to the Pfizer patent. Like the Eighth Circuit acknowledged in Bazaldua, Wikipedia can provide reliable definitions, and defendant Wolfe does not allege that the statement about AB–FUBINACA is false. Id. (Doc. No. 586, Ex. 14–A). This point should be denied.

U.S. v. Wolfe, 4:14CR152 RWS/NCC, 2016 WL 8310382, at *8 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 14, 2016), report and recommendation adopted, 4:14 CR 152 RWS-5, 2017 WL 713033 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 23, 2017)

9th Circuit

Despite being the “liberal Circuit,” the 9th Circuit continues to be one of the most dis-favorable to citing Wikipedia. (Emphasis added below)

In what can only be seen as an act of desperation, Plaintiff cites to Wikipedia for its last-gasp argument: the People’s Republic of China controls all these companies and the Court cannot apply standard rules and concepts of corporate structure and liability to this kind of autocratic, totalitarian system. Wikipedia is not admissible as a source of legal proof and the argument is legally insupportable.

G.O. Am. Ship. Co., Inc. v. China COSCO Ship. Corp. Ltd., C17-912 MJP, 2017 WL 6026959, at *5 (W.D. Wash. Dec. 5, 2017)

Defendant Baca asserts that he cannot be held liable because he was not the acting sheriff at the time of the incidents, and he requests that the Court take judicial notice of his retirement in January 2014. Baca MTD at 2, 6, 12–13. In support of his request for judicial notice, Defendant Baca attaches an article from the Wikipedia website. Baca MTD, Ex. A. Defendant Baca offers no authority regarding the propriety of taking judicial notice of a fact from a Wikipedia article. Courts generally “are hesitant to take notice of information found on third party websites and routinely deny requests for judicial notice of information.” Gerritsen v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., 112 F.Supp.3d 1011, 1028–29 (C.D. Cal. 2015) (declining to take judicial notice of information appearing on Wikipedia); see also Bitton v. Gencor Nutrientes, Inc., 654 Fed.Appx. 358, 361–62 (9th Cir. 2016) (noting the accuracy of statements on a Wikipedia page is not a proper subject for judicial notice); Capcom Co. v. MKR Grp., No. C 08-0904 RS, 2008 WL 4661479, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 20, 2008) (finding Wikipedia articles submitted as a synopsis of movies and video games are inappropriate for judicial notice). The Court therefore will not take judicial notice of the exact dates related to Defendant Baca’s retirement.

Sanders v. Los Angeles County, CV 15-00907 AG (RAO), 2017 WL 8751693, at *8 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 27, 2017)

10th Circuit

District Court relies on Wikipedia for geographic location of public parks.

Like in the 6th Circuit, this is another instance of a District Court relying on Wikipedia for information that is presumably available from State government resources. Again, one presumes that the Court relies on Wikipedia in this instance because it is the most readily available source of this information.

Chaco Canyon is a canyon inside Chaco Park. See “Chaco Culture National Historical Park,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaco_Culture_National_Historical_Park (last viewed April 6, 2018).

The Cochiti Pueblo is located approximately twenty-two miles southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico. See “Cochiti, New Mexico,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochiti,_New_Mexico (last viewed April 14, 2018).

Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Env. v. Jewell, 312 F. Supp. 3d 1031 (D.N.M. 2018)

11th Circuit

A District Court describes relying on information from Wikipedia “is akin to the use of newspaper articles and other informal literature.” (Emphasis added below)

F. Admissibility of Plaintiff’s Citations to Law Review Articles and Websites

Defendant asks the Court to exclude Plaintiff’s citations to law review articles and websites as unauthenticated. (Doc. 64). Plaintiff fails to join issue, and responds only that these articles and websites show that Plaintiff’s opinion that what happened to her was based on racial stereotypes is reasonable. (Doc. 75). Defendant replies that the “[P]laintiff has abandoned her hostile work environment claim” (Doc. 81 at 2, ¶ 3) and thus the “reasonableness” of her opinions is no longer an issue in this case. Defendant further replies that Plaintiff’s “use of information from an online ‘transmedia storytelling site’ and [W]ikipedia is akin to the use of newspaper articles and other informal literature.” (Doc. 81 at 2, ¶ 4). The Court agrees. Plaintiff failed to respond to Defendant’s motion insofar as it sought summary judgment as to her hostile work environment claim, and has therefore abandoned that claim. See, e.g., Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dunmar Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 599 (11th Cir. 1995) (“[G]rounds alleged in the complaint but not relied upon in summary judgment are deemed abandoned.”)

Additionally, the Court agrees that facts set out in law review articles and informal websites (as opposed to official government websites) are similar to facts set out in newspapers. As such, they are inadmissible hearsay and not subject, without more, to any exception, including judicial notice. See Cofield v. Alabama Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 936 F.2d 512, 517 (11th Cir. 1991)(“That a statement of fact appears in a daily newspaper does not of itself establish that the stated fact is ‘capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.’ Fed.R.Evid. 201(b)(2).”). Consistent with Cofield and the authority cited by Defendant, these documents will be excluded.

Smith v. Vestavia Hills Bd. of Educ., 2:16-CV-842-VEH, 2018 WL 1408537, at *7 (N.D. Ala. Mar. 21, 2018)

Is Wikipedia A Reliable Legal Authority?

It depends…but it’s increasingly becoming difficult to say that it isn’t. Far too many courts rely on it what is now going on hundreds of opinions. Courts can’t keep saying “Wikipedia is bad! Don’t use it!” Then cite it themselves in an opinion a few months later.2Realistically, they’re Article III judges and can pretty much do whatever the hell they feel like, but still.

At this point, every Circuit has multiple judicial opinions that cite Wikipedia as a reliable source for general knowledge. But then courts within the same Circuit will be dismissive of Wikipedia as a source of general information. There is no definitive answer. Judges seem to make determinations about Wikipedia’s reliability on a case-by-case basis.

Your best bet is to know your Court.3This is a good rule in all occasions. It will only take you a quick search to determine if a Court has relied on Wikipedia as an authority in the past.

References   [ + ]

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