Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Legal

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WikiProject Law (Rated Project-class)
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Is this sub-guide worthwhile?[edit]

This doesn't really seem to be much of a Legal Style guide. It should either be expanded upon, or put back into the main Manual of Style. For my bit, if it's useful, here's the style guide my uni uses for legal citations:

University of Western Australia Law Review Style Guide

I hope this helps. -- Mark Ryan 03:54, 22 Nov 2003 (UTC)

It's something I started when I was corrected. I'll leave it to the lawyers to write more... Jamesday 14:16, 22 Nov 2003 (UTC)

LOL well for what it's worth, it's right at the moment. Except I wouldn't put a fullstop after the 'v', but I think that's just specific to my uni. - Mark Ryan 15:01, 22 Nov 2003 (UTC)

I am going to use the above link and one from the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School to have a good start on this. I will do more when I have access to my Chicago Manual of Style. I am going to put this information in Wikipedia:Legal Citation, and request that this page be removed. - User:CentrX 01:20, 13 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Style tends to cover things other than citation standards. Things like structure of articles. It may well be better to have this here than in an article suggesting that it's about citations rather than style. Or maybe I'll agree with you. On the legal citation side, you might consider whether that merits an encyclopedia article - there are aspects to legal citations which merit explaining there, if it hasn't been done already. If you do want to go ahead at Legal Citation, no need to delete this one. Just move it there using the move link ont eh left side of the article page. That will leave a link from here to there automatically as well as preserving the history of contributions. Jamesday 11:39, 13 Jan 2004 (UTC)

The period[edit]

There's some discussion about whether case citations should have a period (.) after the "v", or not. I reckon that the sensible thing to do is use the convention of the jurisdiction. In Australia, we don't have it. Though perhaps a redirect page could be created with the verso, so that everyone can reference it easily. Sound ok? An An 04:11, 5 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes.—msh210 01:48, 28 July 2006 (UTC)
Absolutely for England as well.


Copied from Category talk:Latin legal phrases:


In my opinion, each page in this category (and its stub subcategory) should include at its start a pronunciation guide (see WP:MOS-P) that indicates both the true Latin pronunciation and the way the word is pronounced by lawyers today. For the former, I guess the Ecclesiastical pronunciation (see Latin pronunciation) would be most appropriate, depending, though, on when the word came into use, or perhaps the original Latin pronunciation; for the latter, just ask lawyers (knowing, though, that some words have more than one common pronunciation).—msh210 04:44, 20 July 2006 (UTC)

I can't see why one would want the ecclesiastical pronounciation since (1) legal latin has its own rules, which are quite different from the ecclesiastical. Latin as spoken by Romans was different again. Francis Davey 08:44, 20 July 2006 (UTC)
Well, fine: I suppose the Ecclesiastical/original pronunciation is unnecessary, provided that the pronunciation in use in legal circles is preceded by a note like common legal pronunciation:.—msh210 01:35, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Please continue discussion here.msh210 01:48, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

Boldfacing statute names[edit]

Why boldface statute names? (1) It's not standard Stateside (as far as I know). (2) It's confusing on Wikipedia, where boldfacing is used for the title phrase of each article, and for related words. (The statute might not be such, of course.)—msh210 01:54, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

I must admit, I too have reservations about boldfacing statute names. Italicising cases is standard the world over, but I don't know of any precedent for boldfacing statutes. Legis 11:31, 18 October 2006 (UTC)

Including this in the MOS[edit]

This article neither is listed on nor includes {{style}}. Once it is fairly well finalized and accepted by consensus, it should do both, and also include {{style-guideline}}.—msh210 01:54, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

Contra a Universal System[edit]

"I reckon that the sensible thing to do is use the convention of the jurisdiction." (re "The Period")

That is exactly what we should be doing in all situations. It's the only way that we can make sure that other references to the work on the web can be located or the work itself. We need to adopt a standard that isn't universal but rather recognizes existing regional standards.

Doug. - DDHME 22:08, 18 August 2007 (UTC)

WikiProject Law[edit]

Shouldn't we make this part of WikiProject Law and link it to Legal citation - maybe even coordinate the two? Doug. - 22:19, 18 August 2007 (UTC)

Article namings[edit]

Although it hasn't been spelled out to date. Articles on legal cases follow an A v B naming scheme.

Such titles are not only more neutral (than one sided and controversial media names) but also establishes the content of the article better.

-- Cat chi? 12:00, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

Case citation[edit]

This page could have a link to Case citation. -- Wavelength (talk) 16:02, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

MoS naming style[edit]

There is currently an ongoing discussion about the future of this and others MoS naming style. Please consider the issues raised in the discussion and vote if you wish GnevinAWB (talk) 20:57, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

RFC which could affect this MOS[edit]

It has been proposed this MOS be moved to Wikipedia:Subject style guide . Please comment at the RFC GnevinAWB (talk) 20:51, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

Legislation and statutes[edit]

There doesn't appear to be any guidance on citing legislation and statutes. There is no version of the {{cite}} tag for legislation either. Is that deliberate or just haven't gotten around to it? --Thepm (talk) 06:00, 30 April 2011 (UTC)

I suspect every jurisdiction cites statutes differently and that statutes should be cited according to generally accepted standards in the relevant jurisdiction. I am currently working on a U.S.-specific proposal. Savidan 02:20, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
The Blue Book standard would be my suggestion, if we are to have a U.S.-specific proposal.--Epeefleche (talk) 18:34, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
I agree. See Wikipedia:Manual of Style (U.S. legal citations). Savidan 20:53, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
Blue Book is tedious and does not conform to current trends. For example, you have to put a period after every abbreviation. When I was in law school, I did some research on the matter because I was opposed to my law school teaching us ALWD style over Blue Book and claiming that ALWD was more widely used. I learned that most states in the Union use a scaled version of Blue Book. For example, in New York State, there are no periods for abbreviations. In fact, one of the rules in New York State's own Style Manual says that anything not covered specifically will conform to the Blue Book standard in accord with New York's rules for citation and style. The current trend in all other literature is to drop the periods from abbreviations. For example, U.S. becomes US, C.I.A. becomes CIA, or Ltd. becomes Ltd without the period after it. Following the jurisdiction's citation styles makes sense. (talk) 16:02, 2 May 2011 (UTC)

In light of the above comment, I want to emphasize that Wikipedia should follow the generally accepted citation style used in scholarly, secondary sources from a given jurisdiction, not necessarily the style used by published opinions or briefs. Savidan 16:49, 2 May 2011 (UTC)

OK. So one data point is the omission (in England) of a period after the "v" in a case name. I've checked with some really scholarly sources (such as Clayton and Tomlinson) that is now the norm. Omitting a period in citations seems normal in more modern scholarly works as well. Where should that information be recorded? Francis Davey (talk) 07:21, 25 June 2011 (UTC)

Reply to Savidan: If the correct citation of a source is a question of law, as with short titles and collective titles authorized by statute, following secondary sources which are not sources of law, instead of the ascertainable law of the relevant juridiction, might place readers under the impression that the law with respect to such citation is something other than what it is, unless some kind of explanation is given. James500 (talk) 17:58, 9 August 2013 (UTC)

Murders, killings etc.[edit]

Where does WP draw the line between deaths described as murders or killings? Is a conviction necessary to make a killing a murder? Thanks, (talk) 00:05, 1 June 2011 (UTC)

Do you have an example in mind? In some instances, the "murderer" might die during the incident, and thus could not be convicted. And -- what do the RSs say?--Epeefleche (talk) 00:26, 1 June 2011 (UTC)

RFC: restructuring of the Manual of Style[edit]

Editors may be interested in this RFC, along with the discussion of its implementation:

Should all subsidiary pages of the Manual of Style be made subpages of WP:MOS?

It's big; and it promises huge improvements. Great if everyone can be involved. NoeticaTea? 00:43, 25 June 2011 (UTC)

Beatles RfC[edit]

You are invited to participate in an RfC at Wikipedia talk:Requests for mediation/The Beatles on the issue of capitalising the definite article when mentioning that band's name in running prose. This long-standing dispute is the subject of an open mediation case and we are requesting your help with determining the current community consensus. Thank you for your time. For the mediators. ~ GabeMc (talk|contribs) 21:42, 22 September 2012 (UTC)

Style discussion[edit]

There is a discussion going on at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject U.S. Supreme Court cases#Including case citations in the article lead that would affect the lead sentence of just about every legal case Wikipedia article. Interested editors are encouraged to participate in the discussion. UnitedStatesian (talk) 10:37, 13 November 2012 (UTC)

Verb tense for legal cases[edit]

Wikipedia should adopt a standard for the verb tense relating to legal cases. A casual survey of major U.S. Supreme Court decisions shows "was" is more common than "is". Here are how several articles Wikipedia begin, with boldfaced case names replaced by wikilinks and the actual wikilinks and identifying info stripped out.

I believe the present tense (is) should be be the Wikipedia standard. Wikipedia uses the present tense for ancient works of literature, such as

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh ... is amongst the earliest surviving works of literature.
  • The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian funerary text
  • The Iliad ... is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter
  • The Odyssey ... is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer.
  • Aesop's Fables or the Aesopica is a collection of fables credited to Aesop
  • Euclid's Elements ... is a mathematical and geometric treatise

If ancient works of literature are referred to in the present tense, I believe Wikipedia should require the same of judicial decisions, and not allow an article to begin

Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor's use of peremptory challenge ...

Anomalocaris (talk) 00:40, 5 June 2013 (UTC)

What's more common in legal writing? I'm not sure literature is the right comparison here. Articles on legal cases are essentially articles about events which have occurred in the past (unless, of course, it's an ongoing case). The Book of the Dead is a book, even if it was written long ago; I could go check it out of a library today. Maybe by analogy, Roe v. Wade is a case, though it was decided in 1973. So if you're calling something a case, use present tense, if you're calling it a decision, use past tense. Does that make any sense? --BDD (talk) 19:02, 30 August 2013 (UTC)
I disagree. For "decision", the present tense should be used. McCulloch v. Maryland still is a landmark decision. As for "case", it depends on how the word is used. If it is clear it is meant to refer to the decision, again, it should be present tense. If it is referring to the dispute itself, it should be past tense unless the dispute is still ongoing. So "Texas v. Lawrence is a decision in which the Supreme Court ruled..." but "Bush v. Gore was a case between the two main candidates for President of the United States in 2000 in which the Supreme Court ultimately ruled..." The principle here is not one of legal writing, but of more general usage. The present tense is used for continuing truths. Decisions happened in the past, but continue to be decisions. Legal disputes that have received a final judgment are no longer legal disputes, and therefore take the past tense. -Rrius (talk) 03:06, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
Comment. The term "case" has been defined as "the written memorandum" of the dispute: Twining and Miers, How to do Things with Rules, 3ed, p 280; Dowling, Patterson and Powell, Materials for Legal Method, 2ed, p 34. James500 (talk) 10:30, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
It has also been defined as a dispute between two or more litigants; words are capable of more than one precise meaning. Knowing which sense of the word is intended is essential to answering the question that was asked. -Rrius (talk) 12:52, 31 August 2013 (UTC)

I wonder whether standardisation in this is needed or even appropriate. Ambiguity doesn't seem to be an issue: I read about cases every day and all of the examples given by Anomalocaris make perfect sense to me. Nor, I think, does the matter turn upon what name is given - "case", "decision", whatever (which of those is appropriate would be a different debate). There is a difference (not applicable to works of literature) between referring to a case/decision as a historical event, when the past tense is appropriate, and as authority, when the present tense is appropriate. Some cases, such as Dred Scott v. Sandford, are only of historical importance; others, if very recent, may not yet be of historical importance. However, some cases will be mentioned because of historical importance, some because of importance as current authority and some for both reasons. Also, even though a case is important mainly as authority, it might have been decided so long ago that the present tense would be odd - thus "Roe v. Wade is" sounds ok to me, "McCulloch v. Maryland is" would sound odd, and "Brown v. Board of Education" would sound ok either way.--Wikiain (talk) 23:29, 31 August 2013 (UTC)

Trespass example[edit]

The guidance presently has "Contextualize Trespass as an intentional tort against property". That is neither consistent with our article on trespass nor accurate. Trespass to the person is not a tort against property. It appears to be possible to trespass against land by negligence (eg League against Cruel Sports Ltd v Scott). I am going to be bold and remove the errors. James500 (talk) 22:21, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

Corporation in titles[edit]

Closing after one month of discussion, consensus was that articles on cases should be titled using whatever legal citation is used in the relevant jurisdiction. The Bluebook or other citation guides might be a helpful resource to refer to in these matters. In any case, while WP:COMMONNAME was a consideration here, editors generally agreed that using the legal citation is the most stable way to refer to court cases. (Side note: I may be misunderstanding this, and I do not have a strong background in law, but upon reading this RfC, I gathered the proposal was aimed to standardize court case names. This closing, however, means that if jurisdictions differ in their conventions, such as in how they abbreviate certain terms, we may have some court case titles that use "Co." and others that use "Company", for instance. I'm not entirely sure how likely this is to occur, but it's something I wanted to point out based on my read of this discussion.) I, JethroBT drop me a line 19:14, 30 September 2013 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

With cases involving corporations, a fundamental conflict arises in titling between being only precise as necessary and the recognizability of established titles. For articles like United States v. Microsoft Corporation, Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., or Carter v. Carter Coal Company, what conventions are used where for including and/or abbreviating the company status? Could we get something specified in the guidelines? Relisted for RFC. --George Ho (talk) 04:33, 20 September 2013 (UTC) ENeville (talk) 18:49, 30 August 2013 (UTC)

If we follow legal citation conventions (and there is no reason not to), we would say United States v. Microsoft Corp., Bailey would stay as you wrote it, and the last would be Carter v. Carter Coal Co. -Rrius (talk) 03:12, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
For the sake of thorough consideration, but without implying conclusion, I would note that at least one reason exists for titling another way: the stated conflict with WP:PRECISION, which might indicate a title such as United States v. Microsoft. ENeville (talk) 21:03, 4 September 2013 (UTC)

PROPOSAL: Articles on cases should be titled according to the legal citation convention for the jurisdiction that handled the case.

  • Support as proposer. GregJackP Boomer! 15:24, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Support: Doing so seems in line with other aspects of how we deal with titles of case articles. -Rrius (talk) 16:10, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Support in principle: But, rather than address such matters piecemeal, perhaps MOS needs to be changed to state the principle: go by the jurisdiction's convention, to be found in a generally accepted style manual where there is one—and, in each of the principal English-language jurisdictions, there now is one (Legal citation).--Wikiain (talk) 23:25, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Support. Support Wikipedia being precise and accurate, and not shortening/paraphrasing/abbreviating proper name titles in such a way that may encourage sloppy downstream reuses. Accurate titling sets the tone for any document. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 04:39, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
Did I miss something, or did you just support an effort to introduce abbreviations while arguing against them? --BDD (talk) 16:23, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
I was wondering the same thing, SmokeyJoe. GregJackP Boomer! 23:08, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
What? The proposed text sounds good. For titles, I am not against abbreviations, if they are abbreviations used in the reliable primary source. I am against Wikipedia MOS fiddling with proper name titles, typically by shortening them by ommission of words, not based on the most reliable primary sources.
I oppose (further) shortening of "United States v. Microsoft Corporation" to "United States v. Microsoft" because it is not what is used in the most reliable sources, but if the legal citation convention for the jurisdiction that handled the case abbreviates "Corporation" to "Corp.", that is fine. If I were, in a real world essay, to cite "United States v. Microsoft", would that be wrong or sloppy? I think "yes". If I were to cite "United States v. Microsoft Corp." would that be wrong or sloppy? I think "no", it is using the standard abbreviation.
I had read the proposal as meaning that Articles on cases should only be shortened/paraphrased/abbreviated if shortened/paraphrased/abbreviated according to the legal citation convention for the jurisdiction that handled the case. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:39, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
Got it - thanks, and I agree. You read the proposal correctly, at least as far as what I meant by it. Regards, GregJackP Boomer! 23:48, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Based on the unanimous support, I have added an article title section to the MOSLAW style guide. If someone objects, feel free to revert and bring it back here for more discussion. Also feel free to tweak the wording, etc., as needed. Regards, GregJackP Boomer! 01:52, 10 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Usage in WP titles should follow usage in reliable sources. For example, scholarly sources routinely and most commonly use United States v. Microsoft when referring to this case [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]. Legal cases should not be an exception to WP:CRITERIA - we should follow usage in reliable sources, period.

    Accordingly, I am reverting the above change and seeking more input and discussion. --B2C 18:22, 12 September 2013 (UTC)

Just as a sidenote, there are over 1,000 law reviews and journals that cite it as United States v. Microsoft Corp. according to Westlaw. Law reviews are secondary sources and are considered to be reliable sources, especially for legal articles. See 20 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 1185, 16 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 297, 39 Tex. J. Bus. L. 127, 14 Mich. Telecomm. & Tech. L. Rev. 7714 Mich. Telecomm. & Tech. L. Rev. 77, 34 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 749, 40 Wake Forest L. Rev. 1, 19 Conn. J. Int'l L. 571, 10 B.U. J. Sci. & Tech. L. 209, 2004 U. Ill. J.L. Tech. & Pol'y 171, & 11 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 37, just to list the first ten. GregJackP Boomer! 05:50, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
They also use "United States v. Microsoft", so please put a little more effort in to proving your case than listing a small sample of articles that support your point. The fact is, reliable sources use both, so trying to make your argument is just a waste of time. -Rrius (talk) 04:18, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
Comment. I would note that a primary source is still a reliable source, we just prefer to use secondary sources. Second, we are not looking at any one specific case, such as Microsoft, but what is best for all cases. Finally, the proposed change is not an exception to WP:CRITERIA, it is in accord with that policy. From the bottom of the list, it is consistent with other titles on legal cases within that jurisdiction. It is concise and precise. It is recognizable and to some degree, natural. Regards, GregJackP Boomer! 19:29, 12 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment. I'm not certain a subject-specific guideline needs to be established here. Legal case articles should be titled by whatever the most recognizable name for the case is. This can generally be presumed to be, but in the case of especially popular cases or unwieldy case titles will not always be, the official name of the case. At which point you're just restating WP:NAME. --erachima talk 20:33, 12 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment - I added the RFC tag to attract attention. --George Ho (talk) 04:33, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment Thank you, George. To assist discussion, these are the English-language citation guides that are available free online: Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities and Australian Guide to Legal Citation (those articles have links to the official sites). The best known such guide in English, the US Bluebook, is not free online but will be in any US university library and many others. IMO, the availability and widespread acceptance of these guides is a way to avoid WP:CREEP by having MOS simply state as a general principle that, for any jurisdiction that has such a guide, the guide's recommendations are to be preferred. Each of them has gone through several (even numerous) editions, with continual feedback from users, and IMO are "reliable sources". Moreover, these guides are not confined to their own jurisdictions; they might not be wholly reliable as to other jurisdictions, but I think they are unlikely to be far wrong.--Wikiain (talk) 05:09, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment - while Bluebook is not online, there are several online guides to citing per Bluebook, including several that will generate the citation for you. GregJackP Boomer! 05:38, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Question. Have these guides been endorsed by the courts? I ask this because the correct citation of a document such as an Act of Parliament sometimes appears to be a question of law. That might be an obstacle to a general rule that we follow all of the recommendations in these guides. James500 (talk) 08:19, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
  • In many, if not most cases the guides are mandated (in the U.S.). For example, Illinois provides that Bluebook is used, with exceptions noted in their own style manual (2012, p.2); New Jersey provides a summary of exceptions from Bluebook in their rules (p.3); etc. There is a good, free online guide at LII with a free PDF here that gives good examples of citations, including specific examples. I'm not sure on the other countries, but believe that the U.K. requires use of their style manual, etc. Maybe someone more familiar with those countries can respond. GregJackP Boomer! 15:14, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Also the New Zealand Law Style Guide (which is mandated by the New Zealand courts).[7] Neljack (talk) 06:29, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Our article on OSCOLA doesn't say anything about its use being required by the courts. James500 (talk) 07:39, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
Speaking as someone who writes both pleadings and also academic articles, I think that there is a divergence of practice between the two. Certainly there are no rules of court that require OSCOLA and I think what few rules there are about citation of cases do not always correspond to OSCOLA, eg as to formatting. English courts are not entirely consistent about style anyway, although of course we don't write "v." any more and we never say "versus" :-). Francis Davey (talk) 09:36, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
  • I'm not aware of the AGLC being mandated or endorsed by any Australian court - though, since its first edition 1998, it has had a foreword by a member of the High Court of Australia (the highest court), which may be taken as a personal endorsement. It certainly isn't opposed by anyone. However, I don't think that curial endorsement is the issue. As that judge puts it, the aim of the AGLC is that sources may be "identified clearly and accurately, simply and efficiently, and with due sensitivity". This, I would think, is also the aim of a WP article heading. The official name of a case - the name that it has at the beginning of an official or officially endorsed law report - should appear early in the article, but will often be too cumbersome to be appropriate for the heading. This is actually curial practice, I would suppose in any jurisdiction: in a judgement, the name of a cited case will usually be shortened in the body of the judgement (even to a single word) and then given in full in a footnote. (For the sake of clarity, I've taken the liberty of also dot-pointing the previous two comments.) --Wikiain (talk) 23:36, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose Your argument does not hold. WP:PRECISION is quite clear on the matter; if the "recognizability of established titles" is adversely affected, then WP:PRECISION is not being met. IOW, there is no fundamental conflict. In my mind, it is simple: WP:PRECISION implies a requirement that the title be recognizable. "Recognizability" is not the same as equality. On the contrary, your proposal ("should be titled according to the legal citation convention") explicitly contradicts WP:PRECISION ("should be precise enough ... but no more precise") precisely because of the inclusion of unnecessary wording. Legal citations were made by people that did not, and do not, care about widespread consumption of their material; IOW legal citations are a domain specific writing style, and something that should be avoided if there is something better (WP:PRECISION is better). Wikipedia is made for the widest possible audience (not just lawyers), but Wikipedia is not for everyone; readers are expected to know how to read, to recognize simple abbreviations, to recognize implicit congruences, etc. "Microsoft" and "Microsoft Corp." and "Microsoft Corporation" are implicitly congruent. Wikipedia can rename articles, while legal citations cannot, because Wikipedia is a dynamic resource which can be changed at will while legal citations are made for printed (permanent) resources; as such, any name conflicts caused by WP:PRECISION are easily resolved. In addition, redirects will be more than enough to handle alternate titles. Int21h (talk) 19:21, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
I'm sorry you feel that way. There is no conflict with WP:PRECISION--for example, look at the Microsoft case. Were this proposal a part of the MOS, there would be no argument there, it would be titled United States v. Microsoft Corp. The general public can easily recognize this and it ends needless debate. GregJackP Boomer! 19:44, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
Well, I actually feel as though WP:PRECISION prefers United States v. Microsoft. There is no need for "Corp." or "Corporation" as there is only one Microsoft. The title would still be recognizable as such. This is why I oppose.
Wikipedia and the courtroom are two entirely different contexts, one places emphasis on readability and ease of editing, while the other places emphasis on doing what your told by someone who knows better. Yes, I realize this is in opposition to what most legal sources use, but I just think the consumers (and editors, such as me) of Wikipedia are an entirely different crowd and would not benefit from this. It is not that both are not understandable, it is that WP:PRECISION prefers just enough precision to convey the correct meaning, and no more. The extra precision of the "Corp.", abbreviated though it may be, is just not needed. Int21h (talk) 01:20, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
Even assuming your point is correct, so what? WP:PRECISION is a part of WP:Article titles. That policy also specifically allows for specific naming conventions that are contrary to individual provisions of WP:Article titles. Since what we are doing is discussing the adoption of a new specific naming convention, you need a better argument than it would be contrary to a provision of WP:Article title. -Rrius (talk) 04:13, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
Of course it can be overruled by more specific policies, and it is. I do not oppose for the sake of current policy, but I oppose because current policy is better. WP:PRECISION should not be overruled, certainly not because of the policies of the 4 or 5 mega publishers that happen to dominate the field. My point is that WP:PRECISION is a better policy than that of Bluebook, West, Westlaw, and LexisNexis which happened to have convinced a majority of judicial councils and legislatures to adopt their format (and quite often gave them monopolies on top of that). I happened to give an example: United States v. Microsoft as opposed to United States v. Microsoft Corp.. Wikipedia does not need to emulate this pattern, because we are free from their technical constraints (e.g., we can rename articles). Excluding this extraneous and superfluous information, as is current policy, is a better policy. Int21h (talk) 04:28, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
I comment only to clarify misinformation. West, Westlaw, and LexisNexis (or Bloomberg, don't have anything to do with legal citation formatting or styleguides. Bluebook is compiled by the law reviews of Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Penn. These are all student run organizations, not "mega publishers." The only other U.S. styleguide is the ALWD, published by Wolters-Kluwer, which is hardly a "mega publisher." (And which is not the primary guide in any jurisdiction, but allowed as "optional" in just a few). The U.K. system is free, OSCOLA is put out by Oxford. Both the Australian and Canadian systems are published by law reviews, like the U.S. Bluebook. GregJackP Boomer! 12:03, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
WP:PRECISION may be better policy, but it is not better guidance because WP:PRECISION means different things to different people looking at different fields. WP:PRECISION is not clear in any specific case. The guidance being discussed here is much better guidance, allowing random editors to follow a recommendation without having to be completely up to speed with the many nuanced policy statements.
"Articles on cases should be titled according to the legal citation convention for the jurisdiction that handled the case" is fully consistent with WP:PRECISION, and with WP:NATURAL, and Recognizability, because the jurisdictions already understand a need for precision, and because it is NATURAL to use the titles mostly used in reliable sources, and the same goes for recognizability.
Rejection of this proposal means that every editor needs to guess for themselves what the policy means, and they may very well come up with something novel by referring to analogous practices elsewhere, outside the reliable sources concerned with case law. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 05:06, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
I agree that a repeat of policy in the legal context is good. I don't think most courts' view of precision is the same as WP:PRECISION; WP:PRECISION includes the caveat "but no more precise" and is viewed in the context of WP:COMMONNAME, whereas courts will be arbitrarily precise without regard to common usage. Rejection of this policy means we need a better policy proposal. I do not reject consideration of legal citation conventions, I reject that it should be mandatory for random editors to follow a recommendation requiring them to be completely up to speed with the many nuanced policy statements of Bluebook. Int21h (talk) 05:36, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Support follow legal convention, The Bluebook or other proper citation manuals. Law is a unique field and has a longstanding, standardized citation system that WP needs to use on a consistent basis. Montanabw(talk) 00:50, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Support Following what the courts of the relevant jurisdiction use is the simplest and clearest approach. Neljack (talk) 06:31, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Having given this some thought, I do not think that it would be a good idea to tell editors that they must (rather than may) use a particular citation manual the use of which is not actually mandatory in the jurisdiction concerned. I don't think that is preventing instruction creep. I think that it is instruction creep. All I am prepared to say at the moment is that editors should not use a system of citation that would be regarded as wholly unnacceptablein the jurisdiction concerned. Even then, there may be exceptions where a mandatory system of citation imposes requirements that are beyond the pale. We probably do not, for example, want to cite an old Act of Parliament by a title that is over four hundred words long, as it sometimes is. James500 (talk) 10:42, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
The proposal does not address article titles for legislation, only court cases. GregJackP Boomer! 11:18, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
The suggestion made above by Wikiain that we should have "a general principle that, for any jurisdiction that has such a guide, the guide's recommendations are to be preferred" would on the face of it affect the citation of legislation as that is something that those manuals deal with. On the face of it, it would affect the citation of just about everything. James500 (talk) 11:41, 30 September 2013 (UTC)

Related discussions[edit]

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Additions made to MOSLAW[edit]

I reverted a series of bold edits by James500. Some of these edits are contrary to established consensus and others are new proposals that need discussion before they become policy. Please propose the changes that you wish made here and we can discuss what changes are necessary. GregJackP Boomer! 03:35, 1 October 2013 (UTC)

What established consensus have I failed to recognise? James500 (talk) 04:39, 1 October 2013 (UTC)

The first item in the Article titles section is:

  • Articles on cases should be titled according to the legal citation convention for the jurisdiction that handled the case.

So how am I supposed to determine what the "legal citation convention for the jurisdiction that handled the case" is? Should we add a list of legal citation conventions by jurisdiction so that editors can easily look up the answer? The guideline gives an example:

yet | citations = 253 F.3d 34 (2001) given in the infobox spells out Corporation rather than abbreviating it. Can someone point to an example where the jurisdiction by convention does abbreviate the word Corporation? It's spelled out in full as MICROSOFT CORPORATION here too. Wbm1058 (talk) 13:41, 1 October 2013 (UTC)

See Legal citation#Citation by country. Also, the case as filed will use the entire name, while as cited will be abbreviated per the citation convention. In the U.S., that is normally Bluebook. A good online resource is here. GregJackP Boomer! 14:22, 1 October 2013 (UTC)
That just shows that Bluebook is one of several US conventions. The RfC consensus just says, "The Bluebook or other citation guides might be a helpful resource to refer to in these matters." It doesn't say that Wikipedia should always conform to Bluebook style. – Wbm1058 (talk) 14:49, 1 October 2013 (UTC)

Language appropriate for a lay audience[edit]

The section headed "general considerations" presently instructs editors to "use plain language, appropriate for a lay audience". The words "appropriate for a lay audience" should be deleted. They imply that there are some things that people who are not lawyers will be too stupid to understand. That is plainly nonsense. A "lay audience" will include people who are far more intelligent than the average lawyer. And they will not appreciate being told that there is language that is not appropriate for them. James500 (talk) 03:33, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

I disagree. I can write an article in legalese that will be difficult for lay people to understand, not because they are stupid, but because they are not trained to read that. For example:
Jones conveyed the real property to Smith in fee simple absolute, receiving in consideration another property in life estate pur autre vie Roberts.
Jones sold his land to Smith, and in return was allowed to live on another property until Roberts died.
This can be done in almost every area of the law. It is not about the laity being stupid, it is about readability. GregJackP Boomer! 04:25, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

There will be lay people who would have no difficulty understanding that passage. Some lay people will have read books on that subject and thereby acquired a sufficient knowledge of it to decipher that passage. James500 (talk) 05:51, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

Yes, just as there will be some that are legally trained, etc. We still need to write to the average reader. GregJackP Boomer! 02:56, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

(1) The expression "lay audience", presently used in the guideline, doesn't refer to the average reader. In this context it refers, or at least it can refer, to anyone who isn't legally qualified. It includes people who are anything but average. It is not possible to make generalizations about what is or is not appropriate for such a diverse group of people. At the very least, the expression "lay audience" should be replaced with something else. (2) Unqualified references to a "lay audience" may be particularly dangerous because, according to this book some people apparently think "that writing for the lay audience means a condescending oversimplification of the subject matter". (3) I am not aware of any policy or guideline of general application that requires that all content across all subjects must be written to the average reader. I don't see why law should be singled out for special treatment. James500 (talk) 16:25, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

Wikipedia does write for the average reader, see WP:PCR. But come up with some suggested verbiage and we'll get some input on the community thinks. GregJackP Boomer! 16:57, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

WP:PCR is only an essay. James500 (talk) 17:15, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

That is widely accepted. Look at the number of times peer reviews and FA reviews talk about writing for "lay audiences" [8], [9], [10], just to name a few. See also WP:MTAU. GregJackP Boomer! 18:46, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

(1) I do not think that comments made by three users is proof of widespread acceptance of anything. Nor do I see what that has to do with WP:PCR, which they do not mention. It is no good refering to "the number of times" that something has happened if you don't tell us what that number is. What makes you think that peer reviewers and FA reviewers are a representative sample of the community anyway? (2) WP:MTAU is certainly relevant but I don't think that it agrees with what you are saying. It says "a topic in ... specialist law ... may contain material that only knowledgeable readers can appreciate or even understand". It does not require that all content must be written for, or comprehensible to, the average reader or a lay audience or such like. It only says that it should be comprehensible to the widest possible audience, which it admits might be a very narrow one composed of people who already have a certain degree of familiarity with the subject in question. James500 (talk) 21:38, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

Why not replace the reference in the guideline to a lay audience with a reference to the widest possible audience, in deference to WP:MTAU, since that is already the main guideline. The precise wording that I have in mind is to replace "appropriate for a lay audience" with "understandable to the widest possible audience" and a piped link to WP:MTAU. James500 (talk) 21:49, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

I am going to make the change I suggested in the paragraph above. No one has raised any objections to it. Consensus for it has already been established at WP:MTAU because it reproduces that guideline verbatim. There is nothing on this talk page indicating a local consensus to deviate from WP:MTAU. Indeed, there is no discussion approving the inclusion of the existing passage in the first place. James500 (talk) 08:28, 5 October 2013 (UTC)

Looks good to me. GregJackP Boomer! 14:54, 5 October 2013 (UTC)

Sega v. Accolade[edit]

Should this title be an exception? --George Ho (talk) 00:16, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

No, it should not be an exception. The proper style would be Sega Enter. Ltd. v. Accolade, Inc., but with it being Today's Featured Article, I would leave it until after it clears the main page. GregJackP Boomer! 01:06, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
Sorry to say, GregJackP, that the discussion is closed as "no consensus". So... maybe change that title guideline into... "editing guideline"? --George Ho (talk) 17:37, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
I don't see a need to change the title guideline based on one decision. It's not something I would lose sleep over. GregJackP Boomer! 18:24, 13 November 2013 (UTC)

"No consensus" again, eh? Care to re-propose so soon? George Ho (talk) 00:44, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

Do you have a point, or is this just you being a dick? I'm just asking so I know how to respond. GregJackP Boomer! 01:58, 27 November 2013 (UTC)
I'm not being a "dick". I merely asked whether you want to try again. Another question: shall we use this case as an example? George Ho (talk) 07:01, 27 November 2013 (UTC)
OK, I'm glad that you're not being a "dick" about it. It is an example of an exception to the rule, sure. It is not an example that the rule needs to be changed. GregJackP Boomer! 16:55, 27 November 2013 (UTC)
You can't add it in the main project page? George Ho (talk) 01:50, 28 November 2013 (UTC)


I reverted the edit showing exceptions to the article title section. It is not needed, and not used in most other guidelines for titles or whatever. WP:IAR covers whatever exceptions are needed. GregJackP Boomer! 18:30, 13 November 2013 (UTC)

Person v. Person and State v. Person cases[edit]

I heard from Bluebook, "For names of individuals, use only the surname (family name), omitting given names and initials," and "Generally, omit given names or initials of individuals...." We have Roe v. Wade, United States v. Manning, State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, and New Jersey v. Dharun Ravi. Shall we make names consistent or something? --George Ho (talk) 04:27, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

Roe v. Wade and United States v. Manning are correct. Both of the other cases you mention are trial level cases, not appellate cases. In any event, the standard would be "State v. Zimmerman" for the first, and "State v. Ravi" for the second. Since they are not appellate cases, you could also call the articles "The trial of ... " or leave them as is without it impacting MOS:LAW. Both of those are for the state court system of Florida and New Jersey. Other states are different, as is the federal system.
This is not something that has to be changed all at once, especially where the move might be contentious. Is there some reason that this is a burning issue? GregJackP Boomer! 06:01, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
Actually, in the wake of Manning's... gender outing, they have to abandon "Bradley" to avoid further dispute. I wonder if they are aware of Bluebook. Also, sometimes scrapping out first names, unless commonly used, isn't that necessary for low-profile people. Jane Roe and Henry Wade are high-profile people. I wonder if you can create New York v. Tabitha Walrond (or People v. Tabitha Walrond), the case of child manslaughter and neglected that was notorious for the mother's infected breastmilk that killed her child. --George Ho (talk) 06:41, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

Keep Microsoft as an example regardless of change?[edit]

If the name changes, shall we still keep US V. Microsoft as an example? --George Ho (talk) 07:53, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

We won't cross that bridge until we reach it. GregJackP Boomer! 07:59, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

How to deal with cases of (subtle?) differences in terminology/definition in worldwide usage?[edit]

How to deal with Cases of (subtle?)differences in terminology/definition in worldwide usage? Other questions usually come up are some thing like

  • Are there distinct separate legal definitions?
  • Do all such terms rightly belong within one article, or are they individually notable because of different usage/definitions?

Differences in legal terminology/definition are supposed to matter and usually can have potential to generate enough encyclopedic content.But if you see lack of replies on Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Law it becomes difficult to take decesion with peer consultation; facing and explaining patrollers of non law background is one more problem while contributing to articles.

  • For eg a sentence.
"Applied legal education is imparted through business and commerce school and some other branches wherever necessary."

Here what I was refererring to some short term certificate cources like "Certficate cource in Labour Law" "Certficate cource in Taxation Law" "Certficate cource in intellectual property" , Business law and so on and so forth.Neither I did get any online proper reference to support; more over Applied legal education meant some thing entirely different to the leagal fraternity

For an example "Applied sciences" or "Applied mathematics" brings a different meaning to you but when one uses "Applied legal education" it means some thing entirely different. Then above sentence written by me naturally was countered by some one as original research.

There were similler querries on article talk page Talk:Guarantee. Similler thing, I want to cover subject of legal advocacy by group actors; in almost 200 articles on english wikipedia term "Legal advocacy " apears has more to do than just a profession of Advocate.Neither the article Advocate deals with the subject properly nor the article Advocacy.

What are your experiences while writing on legal subject articles, and how do you suggest to deal with these issues.

Mahitgar (talk) 08:24, 30 November 2013 (UTC)

Proposal regarding legislation[edit]

Amartyabag and I were recently discussing (here) how this page does not contain any guidance on legislation. Based on common practice both on and off Wikipedia, I'd like to suggest the adding to the MOS the following guidance concerning legislation and regulations:

Legislative citations

  • When citing to a constitution, cite to the Constitution's name followed by the relevant provision.
  • When citing statutes, cite to an official compilation if possible (e.g., United States Code for U.S. federal statutes). If an Act has not been codified into an official compilation, cite to the Act itself. If an Act has been codified, but the compilation has not been enacted into positive law, citing to both the compilation and the Act itself is preferred, but citing to the Act is not necessary.
  • When citing to an Act, cite to the Act's short title, and follow it with the relevant provision. If the Act has multiple short titles, cite to the most commonly used short title. If the Act has no short title, cite to the Act's session law number or equivalent designation in that jurisdiction.
  • When citing to a bill, cite to the bill's short title, if any, followed by the bill number, the legislative session the bill was introduced in, and the relevant provision.
  • When citing to an administrative regulation, cite to an official compilation if possible (e.g., Code of Federal Regulations for U.S. federal regulations). If the regulation has not been codified, cite to an official register or other official publication that contains the regulation.

Article titles - Legislation

  • For article titles, use an Act's or bill's common name. Usually, this will be the short title or a derivative of the short title (e.g., an acronym).

Does anyone have any thoughts on this proposal? –Prototime (talk · contribs) 04:53, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

  • Comment. An act's short title may not be enough to identify it; some acts have some particularly common short titles. Some short titles are also not official, but just common names, being one of several. With that said, are there other ways of citing legislation/regulations? This seems pretty common sense to me, with no other practical way to cite these things. Its not as if someone is going to cite the Statutes at Large when they could just cite the United States Code; if they do, its probably because they didn't know the USC citation, and its not as if someone would get reverted if they changed it to cite the USC. In my opinion, an MOS is really only for standardizing differing styles. And in any event, we need to make sure this jives with the Bluebook and the Maroonbook from the University of Chicago Law Review editors. Int21h (talk) 08:05, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback. Concerning your first point, a "short title" means an official title that is designated in the Act's language itself and appearing in the USC notes; nicknames are not short titles. Sometimes an Act has multiple short titles, and sometimes an Act's common name is a derivative of a short title (like an acronym), and in those instances I tried to make clear in the proposal that the editor should choose the most commonly used short title or derivative.
Concerning your second point, I don't think any of this is "common sense". It might be for lawyers and experienced editors, but it isn't for most others. And this page already specifies things that are much more commonly known than what I'm proposing, such as "Case names are italicised".
Finally, perhaps I should have specified this up front, but these proposed guidelines are based on the Bluebook. –Prototime (talk · contribs) 14:46, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
With case law, one might certainly not use italics, which is why a standardized style guide is needed. But are there other ways, besides what you propose, one might use to cite these things? Int21h (talk) 18:13, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
Yes, and things aren't consistent around Wikipedia. For U.S. federal legislation, for example, some articles cite to the USC, some cite to the public law number, some cite to the statutes at large, some to the Act's short title, and some cite to some combination of them. Some articles don't have a consistent citation style within themselves. For example, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act doesn't cite to the USC at all, cites to the public law number every time, and in some instances cites to the statutes at large. Voting Rights Act of 1965 cites to the Act's short title in most instances, but cites to the public law number or USC in others. Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 links to a PDF of the public law, but it doesn't contain any legislative citation information at all, instead citing to a government website that contains the PDF. All of these different ways of citing do give proper attribution (and all three of these articles are GA), but the inconsistency across and within articles can be confusing. My proposal is to create a uniform style, based on common practice in the legal profession. –Prototime (talk · contribs) 19:16, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
What about common short titles? Multiple countries, especially those in the Commonwealth, often use the same generic short titles. Does the proposal properly account for this? Int21h (talk) 21:06, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
In Commonwealth countries, the year is part of the the short title (e.g., Constitutional Reform Act 2005). In cases where the title is used more than once in a year, there is typically a number added (again as part of the official short title), such as the Appropriation (No. 3) Act 2010, which was passed after the Appropriation Act 2010 and Appropriation (No. 2) Act 2010.
Another issue though for at least UK acts arises. The Appropriation Act 2010 would often be cited as Appropriation Act 2010, c. 5, the last bit referring to the fact it is Chapter 5, or the fifth bill of the year. This can be extremely helpful in researching legislation, so I think it would make sense to at least recommend using the chapter number for uncodified acts in the first instance in an article. Other than that, I also support the proposal. -Rrius (talk) 00:30, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
I think your making overly broad assumptions about what a particular parliament chooses for its official short title. I don't know when the UK Parliament started putting the year in the short title, but its fairly recent, within the last 100 years or so. Int21h (talk) 04:11, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
No, they have been doing that since at least the 1850s (albeit with exceptions). See for example section 235 of the Common Law Procedure Act 1852. James500 (talk) 08:38, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for pointing that out about chapters Rrius, I'll add that to the proposal. –Prototime (talk · contribs) 04:26, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
Good point, Int21h. I think that for article titles, if it's a generic short title then something else should distinguish it, probably the jurisdiction in parenthesis. E.g., "Farm Act (Canada)". Should I add this to the proposal? As for generic short titles used in the body of the article, I think editors would/should make clear from context which jurisdiction they're talking about. –Prototime (talk · contribs) 04:26, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
That would probably not be appropriate unless the Act is normally cited in that way. The jurisdiction will often be obvious from the context. A more effective way to distinguish two Acts with the same short title is to create article for each of them and link the citation to the article on the Act (ie a piped link). British Acts can be distinguished from foreign Acts with the same short title by adding their chapter at the end, which is a relatively common practice. James500 (talk) 08:38, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
Though, I think COMMONNAME should be used for article title and it will triumph over the official short title of an Act. We should address the following concerns in the MOS:
  • Whether "The" should be part of article title (where it is officially part of short title) Is there any guidelines for commonwealth countries in this regard? Is "The" a customary/grammatical addition or part of the short title?
  • Whether year should be considered part of article title?
  • When there is a generic short title, whether year or country name/state name should be used as disambiguation. Amartyabag TALK2ME 05:20, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
What the short title is depends on the interpretation of the enactment that authorizes it. The year is normally part of the short title in the United Kingdom because the enactment that authorizes it clearly says that it is. In such cases it should certainly be included in the article title. Whether the definite article is part of the short title in the United Kingdom is probably impossible to say. There is little evidence, none of it is obviously conclusive, and it is contradictory. I have looked quite extensively because this issue has come up before. Also this might be out of scope for the MOS because it is a question of substance (ie statutory interpretation) not style. James500 (talk) 12:53, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. Int21h (talk) 20:42, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Out of scope. The MOS does not concern itself with citations. According to "WP:Citing sources" (WP:CITE) editors may use any consistent style. If you want to suggest bits of information to include in the citation, do so at WP:CITE. You could also point to various legal citation guides or Wikipedia templates that editors of any particular article might decide to use. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:06, 11 March 2014 (UTC)