A US defence lawyer has learned the hard way that Wikipedia is not the most reliable source of legal information available and that other people read it too - including judges.
As reported by the ABA Journal, a federal judge has issued a warning to the lawyers who sought a new trial for a woman convicted of trying to extort money.
In his February opinion, in which he denied a new trial for the defendant, US District Judge Charles Simpson of Louisville stated that the defence team should not have copied its discussion from Wikipedia.
"The court notes here that defence 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 in a footnote.
"The court reminds counsel that such cutting and pasting, without attribution, is plagiarism ... Finally, the court reminds counsel that Wikipedia is not an acceptable source of legal authority in the United States District Courts."
The lawyer told the ABA Journal in a phone message that the Wikipedia entry in the motion filed was based on a brief written by his investigator, who then told the ABA Journal that Wikipedia got the information from them.
"Wikipedia got that from us, it's our product," the investigator said.
Folklaw, while embarrassed for the lawyer if he did in fact base his unsuccessful legal argument from an "openly editable model" encyclopaedia, is more impressed by the investigator's claims that Wikipedia got it from them.