Reliability of Information

If I were a character in a novel I would work at a think tank in a log structure in the mountains and would wear glasses that connect to the internet and flash a virtual keyboard in front of me with a voice command. And I would have a satellite phone with a secure line. And I would be really cute and tall.

Think tanks are not just plot elements in novels or adventure fantasy. They are potential research sources.

I received an email today from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. The email shared an interesting report titled Housing Affordability and the Standard of Living in Calgary. The full report is available on the site and appears (after a very rush review) well written and has all the indicia of a citable source:

  • charts and graphs with data source attribution
  • endnotes with a consistent citation style
  • hyperlinks to recognizable URLs
  • an executive summary
  • it is long(ish) at 74 pages

My questions for Slawyers: for statistics rich information or comparative data, when is it reasonable to use information from an indirect source? If I were looking at this document to support a legal research project, is a concise well crafted report from an unrelated body found on the web as reliable as a published journal article?

Have we passed the tipping point where information that is available to the casual browser that is from a reasonable source worthy of citation to the courts?


  1. Isn’t the question governed by the usual law of evidence? Why would one be wanting to cite such a report? The statistics in it would be hearsay. The Evidence Acts tend to allow for admission of publications of recognized governments, but not too many others. Even the contents of official government websites, i.e. reports that would be admitted if in print, may be difficult to get admitted from an online governmental site.

    Such a report found online may be very credible, just as a book found in a bookstore may be very credible, but neither is automatically admissible in a court proceeding.

    I stand to be corrected by someone who actually knows about litigation…

  2. I’m wondering about so-called “Brandeis briefs” and what the standard or “filter” is for the social data that might go into such a document.

  3. I take your point on the rules of evidence John. I add a ‘wonder’ to my questions above about the concept of a document being accepted by ‘judicial notice’.

    I think back to the SCC decision in Progressive Homes Ltd ( which includes a citation to a Texas CLE paper. I hope Slawyers will continue to weigh in on where the line is for indirect sources.