According to Judith D. Fischer, Associate Professor of Law, University of Louisville, writing for the Legal Writing Prof Blog on April 5, 2011, a U.S. District Court in Kentucky recently criticized a lawyer for both plagiarism and citing Wikipedia as authority. See U.S. v. Sypher, Criminal Action No. 3:09-CR-00085, 2011 WL 579156 (W.D. Ky. Feb. 9, 2011). Good grief, a lawyer's discussion of the law in a brief submitted was copied and pasted verbatim from the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia. Imagine having to be reminded by a court that copying another's writing without attribution is unethical and professional misconduct. Worse yet, the lawyer had to be reminded that "Wikipedia is not appropriate legal authority." See Court Condemns Copying from Wikipedia by Associate Professor Fischer.
See also the very interesting comment by John L. Fritz. Fritz makes two good points: He doesn't use a computerized legal research database, but knows how to find opinions by going to the original source. He recommends linking to official websites when available. (I used his link to get to the case above, but I always use a tinyurl when writing here). As Fritz notes, "A more recent opinion revisits the issue, as the attorney in question had apparently not learned his lesson," citing [http://www.kywd.uscourts.gov/cases/usa_v_sypher/pdf/entry258.pdf] (p.5, n.4). A good lawyer would never want to see the type of criticism made by the court in that footnote.