< Wikipedia:Arbitration

This is an old revision of this page, as edited by MartinHarper (talk | contribs) at 16:42, 9 April 2004 (adopted, following vote). The present address (URL) is a permanent link to this revision, which may differ significantly from the current revision.

The arbitration policy acts as a guideline for the workings of the arbitration committee.

These policies are now fully adopted (complete with our ability to hear cases without Jimbo's referral) following discussion at Wikipedia talk:Arbitration policy comments please), and the ratification vote.

See wikipedia:arbitration rationale for selected rationale about the more difficult decisions.

All of the following guidelines are subject to change.


The arbitrators reserve the right to hear or not hear any dispute, at their discretion. The following are general guidelines which will apply to most cases, but the arbitrators may make exceptions.

  1. The arbitrators will hear disputes that have been referred to arbitration by the mediation committee.
  2. Where a dispute has not gone through mediation, the arbitrators may refer the dispute to the mediation committee if it believes mediation is likely to help.
  3. The arbitrators will occasionally request advice on whether to hear a particular dispute from Jimbo Wales.
  4. The arbitrators will primarily investigate interpersonal disputes.
  5. The arbitrators will hear or not hear disputes according to the wishes of the community, where there is a consensus.
  6. The arbitrators will not hear disputes where they have not been requested to arbitrate.


The arbitrators will judge cases according to the following guidelines, which they will apply with common sense and discretion, and an eye to the expectations of the community:

  1. Established Wikipedia customs and common practices.
  2. Wikipedia's "laws": terms of use, submission standards, bylaws, general disclaimer, and copyright license.
  3. Sensible "real world" laws.

Former decisions will not be binding on the arbitrators - rather, they intend to learn from experience.


The initial solution to most problems will be to issue an Arbitration Decree. For example:

  • "User X, you are making unhelpful edits to article A. Stop it, and take a broader lesson from this as you edit other articles."
  • "User X, you are making personal attacks on a wide variety of pages. Don't do that, personal attacks are inappropriate."
  • "User X, limit your reverts to article A to one per day."
  • "User X. refrain from editing this group of articles."

The second option will be to require that a user does not edit Wikipedia for a given time frame: up to thirty days to start with, up to a year in severe cases. These may be enforced by, for example, sysop blocks on IP addresses and usernames. Such bans may be appealed to Jimbo Wales, who retains the right to veto such decisions.

In due course, the arbitrators will review the possibility of additional software-based security measures, but will not request such features at the present time, relying instead on Decrees.


  1. We plan to take evidence in public, but reserve the right to take some evidence in private in exceptional circumstances.
  2. Each arbitrator will make their own decision about how much personal information about themselves they are willing to share, both publicly, and with the rest of the committee.
  3. Arbitrators with multiple accounts on Wikipedia will disclose the usernames of those accounts to the rest of the committee, and to Jimbo Wales, but are not required to disclose them publicly.
  4. Initially, we will keep our deliberations private, based on a semi-formal vote amongst arbitrators. However, both Fred Bauder and The Cunctator have expressed strong distaste for this option, so the arbitrators are far from unanimous on this point.
  5. We will make detailed rationale for all our decisions public, based upon our private deliberations.


The arbitration committee accepts requests for arbitration from anyone; however, in most cases, the arbitration committee will only hear cases referred to them by the Mediation Committee or directly from Jimbo Wales. The arbitration committee will decide whether to accept cases based on its Jurisdiction, as described previously.

The arbitrators will accept a case if four arbitrators have voted to hear it. The arbitrators will reject a case if one week has passed without this occurring AND four arbitrators have voted not to hear it. Individual arbitrators will provide a rationale for their vote if so moved, or if specifically requested.

Who takes part?

  1. Initially, all arbitrators will hear all cases, barring any recusals. We will not use Alex's proposed selection of a three arbitrator panel, for example.
  2. Arbitrators will recuse themselves immediately that they believe that they have a conflict of interest.
  3. Users who believe arbitrators have a conflict of interest should post an appropriate statement during the arbitration process. The arbitrator in question will seriously consider it and make a response.
  4. Arbitrators will not be required to recuse themselves for trivial reasons - merely reverting an edit of a user involved in a case undergoing arbitration, for example, will likely not be seen as a serious enough conflict of interest to require recusal.


Litigants involved in cases heard by the Arbitration committee will present their cases and evidence on a page titled something like "Case of [Username]". Litigants shall be defined as the user or users named in the case or any advocates they identify.

Litigants may add evidence and argument to the case page at any time. Evidence and argument may also be posted by third parties and by the arbitrators themselves. The arbitrators reserve the right to disregard certain items of evidence or certain lines of argument.

Once the hearing has begun, the arbitrators will deliberate the case. If the deliberations are made public, then outside commentary on the deliberations is discouraged until such time after the hearing has ceased that the arbitrators define as the period for public commentary on the deliberations.


Once the hearing has ended, the arbitrators will release one or more detailed arbitrators' opinions on the case. The arbitrators will also release a judgment detailing their resoltion to the dispute, which will be binding. The arbitrators will seek to reach consensus amongst themselves on this remedy. If consensus can not be reached, a vote will be taken, with the view of the majority of the arbitrators prevailing. Majority shall be defined as the decision of more than one-half of the arbitrators.

The decision will contain detailed findings of fact as to what rules were violated, including reference to each specific action or group of actions that violated a rule.

The findings of fact will be of the form similar to:

We find that XXX has/has not engaged in YYY behavior [in violation of ZZZ rule]. We find that the following edits/list postings/IRC chats/etc., in whole or in part, constitute YYY behavior:
  • Incident 1
  • Incident 2
  • etc.
Therefore, we find that XXX has been in violation of policy to ABC extent, and is subject to the following remedy:
Delineation of remedy

Judgements are subject to veto by Jimbo Wales.

Unresolved issues

Deliberately left unspecified at this time:

  • Election of arbitrators
  • Procedure for changing this policy
  • Procedure for votes which produce no majority opinion

Emergency Session

The Arbitration committee will continue their deliberations towards a more permanent policy, and when they are finished, there will be an open community vote "yes or no" on the final policy.

In the meantime, the arbitration committee will handle emergency cases that Jimbo Wales refers to them. It is understood by all that they are merely acting in Jimbo's stead now, so as to begin the transfer of power in an orderly and timely fashion.

There being 11 members of the committee currently, the voting procedure for the emergency session is as follows:

  1. An appeal to the arbitration committee will be officially heard upon referral by Jimbo and approval by any 4 committee members. That is, 4 votes to hear a case will result in the case being heard.
  2. Upon those 4 votes, a final decision will be made within 1 week.
  3. A quorum of the committee will consist of a majority of members, i.e. at least 6 members must vote within that week, or no decision is made, and no action is taken.
  4. When a quorum has been reached, then after 1 week is up, or after enough members have voted such that the conclusion is inevitable, the majority decision will be the arbitration committee decision.

See also