Consider this very reasonable question "Defamation due to breach of confidentiality" which has attracted three answers from high-rep users and those answers very plainly contradict each other: Yes, Possibly, and No.

Also each answer comes with a justification that, to my mind, I having never gone to law school, and considering each answer independently, seems reasonable.

So as it stands, the OP - not to mention all readers - are left even more in the dark than if the question had never been asked.

What's generally done with this sort of Q&A?

(I suppose one possible answer is: Just suck it up, grasshopper. But is there a better/different/locally preferred action?)

  • I have edited my answer in that question to cite soiurces. Other answers citing sources are now present as well. Commented May 23, 2022 at 17:49

4 Answers 4


Welcome to 'real' law

Deciding between conflicting interpretations of the law is what judges get paid for - if the law in a particular case is clear to all parties then it is usually settled well before it gets anywhere near a courthouse (criminal law excepted).

All of the answers to that question are arguable. If I were working for the plaintiff, I'd be making mine. If I were working for the defendant I'd be making both of the other answers. Of course, in a real case, I would find all the precedents that supported my position and argue how this case was exactly the same. At the same time, I would find all the precedents that opposed my position and argue how they were completely different from this case (what's called "distinguishing" a case). Naturally, opposing council would be doing the opposite - that's why they are "opposing".

The judge then decides which one of us is more full of s*&t than the other and that one loses.

Here on stack exchange, we use voting to do the same thing.

  • 4
    The most beautiful thing about the law is how highly specific it is, but is still interpreted to mean anything. Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 5:52

It is also worth observing that one of the answers was specific to Australian law and that the fact pattern was very thin.

One way that answers can reach different conclusions about the same question when it has thin facts is that the different people providing answers can have very different levels of imaginativeness regarding what situations are possible consistent with the facts in the question.

Also, the fact pattern in that question is one that is quite novel, so there aren't a lot of cases four square on point factually from which one can be more comfortable about how something would be resolved legally.

Still, even in the real world with a full set of facts, by my reckoning, the minimum level of uncertainty any time that a judge is asked to rule on an issue is about 10%. And, plenty of legal situations are coin tosses, or even worse, die rolls with multiple possible outcomes each of which have a significant probability of actually happening.


What is done here about questions that have contradicting answers?

the OP - not to mention all readers - are left even more in the dark than if the question had never been asked

Answers on SE are not the last word, and on Law SE they should never be an OP's stopping point.

Unless all answers to a law question are sloppy, one or more of them include links to external sources or end up mentioning key terms with which the audience can corroborate the answer, narrow down the research, and/or deepen it. An OP with no background in law usually does not even know about the existence of those key terms or concepts, whence a contradiction between answers is superseded by the OP's need to assimilate those concepts first.

is there a better/different/locally preferred action?

It is up to each reader to do the effort toward discerning which answers are well premised or make sense.

When I cite (with links to) legislation, case law, or other sources, I don't do it primarily to try staving off the cascade of downvotes & heckling. Rather than that, I truly expect the OP to gain acquaintance with the sources he needs to know regarding his inquiry. I aim at helping the OP become self-sufficient on issues of law, but the rest is up to him (or her, accordingly).



Others have already pointed out that not all questions have clear-cut "right" or "wrong" answers. However, let me extend this to another part of your question that wasn't exactly addressed by previous answers: that's what voting is for.

So, what can be done about this kind of Q&A? Pick which answer you think is the most accurate/useful and upvote it. If you feel that the other answers are inaccurate, feel free to downvote (and perhaps comment explaining why you think that it's incorrect).

Also, the correctness and usefulness of answers is not determined by the reputation of whoever posted them, it's determined by the voting. There are many cases where answers by individuals with relatively low rep write answers that outscore answers by higher-rep users. Here's an excellent example: as of when I wrote this, the poster of that answer had 3 questions prior to that one which have a net score of 11, and then the answer I link to which has a net score of 141. There are two answers by 3k+ users, none of which have net scores above 3.

Point being, merely being high-rep doesn't guarantee that it's the best answer (or even that the answer is correct); even high-rep users get it wrong sometimes. That's why we have voting.

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