Flores v. State, No. 2008 WL 4683960 (Tx. App. October 23, 2008)
Not surprisingly, a Texas appellate court has held that it should not take judicial notice of a Wikipedia article.
Defendant was tried and convicted for cocaine possession. He appealed his sentence, arguing the trial court improperly admitted two oral statements the defendant made while being interrogated. Defendant apparently objected to the method investigators used to interrogate him, because he asked the appellate court to take judicial notice of the Wikipedia entry for the John Reid technique.
Citing to a Wall Street Journal article from earlier this year, the court declined to treat Wikipedia as a “reliable website,” instead invoking the overworn observation that Wikipedia’s greatest strength (its open platform) is also its greatest weakness.
At least one other court has declined giving judicial notice to a Wikipedia entry. This past May, the defendant in the trademark case Cynergy Ergonomics, Inc. v. Ergonomic Partners, Inc., 2008 WL 2064967 (E.D. Mo. May 14, 2008) asked the court to take judicial notice of the Wikipedia article about DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man.
The Cynergy Ergonomics court looked to Fed. R. Evid. 201 which provides that a court may take judicial notice of a fact not in the record where it is “either (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” While not expressly criticizing the reliability of Wikipedia, the court found that the entry did not meet the criteria for judicial notice.
Interrogation room photo courtesy Flickr user Vincent Tulio via this Creative Commons license. Vitruvian Man has been in the public domain for quite some time.
Badasa v. Mukasey, — F.3d —, 2008 WL 3981817 (8th Cir. Aug. 29, 2008)
Illegal alien Badasa sought asylum in the United States. To establish her identity, she submitted to the Immigration Judge a “laissez-passer” issued by the Ethiopian government. Opposing the application for asylum, the Department of Homeland Security submitted a number of items, including a Wikipedia article, to show that a laissez-passer is merely a document issued for a one-time purpose based on information provided by the applicant. The Immigration Judge was not convinced that the laissez-passer established Badasa’s identity, and denied the application for asylum.
Badasa appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which agreed that asylum should be denied. It soundly criticized Wikipedia’s reliability to establish the meaning of the document at issue, but found there was enough other evidence to support the Immigration Judge’s conclusion that Badasa had failed to establish her identity. But the Board of Immigration Appeals failed to discuss this other evidence, therefore running afoul of the administrative law textbook case of SEC v. Chenery, 318 U.S. 80 (1943).
So the Eighth Circuit sent the case back to the Board of Immigration Appeals to make additional findings. The court observed that the Board of Immigration Appeals found that “Badasa was not prejudiced by the [Immigration Judge’s] reliance on Wikipedia, but [the Board of Immigration Appeals] made no independent determination that Badasa failed to establish her identity.” In short, the Board of Immigration Appeals had focused only on why the use of Wikipedia made the case less “solid,” and did not address the lack of solidity found in any of the other evidence connected with the laissez-passer used to establish identity.