Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material in his book and an academic article, according to documents provided to POLITICO.
The documents show that several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.
The findings come as Republicans are on the brink of changing Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch over the vehement objections of Democrats. The documents could raise questions about the rigor of Gorsuch’s scholarship, which Republicans have portrayed during the confirmation process as unimpeachable.
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However, six experts on academic integrity contacted independently by POLITICO differed in their assessment of what Gorsuch did, ranging from calling it a clear impropriety to mere sloppiness.
“Each of the individual incidents constitutes a violation of academic ethics. I’ve never seen a college plagiarism code that this would not be in violation of,” said Rebecca Moore Howard, a Syracuse University professor who has written extensively on the issue.
Elizabeth Berenguer, an associate professor of law at Campbell Law School, said that under legal or academic standards Gorsuch’s similarities to the Indiana Law Journal would be investigated “as a potential violation of our plagiarism policy. It’s similar enough to the original work.”
“I would apply an academic writing standard,” said Berenguer, who teaches plagiarism and legal writing. “Even if it were a legal opinion, it would be plagiarism under either.”
Wait–what’s this about “under legal or academic standards?”
The White House provided statements from more than a half-dozen scholars who have worked with Gorsuch or helped oversee the dissertation he wrote at Oxford University that was later turned into his book. They included John Finnis, professor emeritus at Oxford; John Keown of Georgetown University, one of the outside supervisors for Gorsuch’s dissertation; and Robert George of Princeton University, the general editor for Gorsuch’s book publisher.
The experts offered by the White House asserted that the criteria for citing work in dissertations on legal philosophy is different than for other types of academia or journalism: While Gorsuch may have borrowed language or facts from others without attribution, they said, he did not misappropriate ideas or arguments.
“Judge Gorsuch did not attempt to steal other people’s intellectual property or pass off ideas or arguments taken from other writers as his own,” said George. “In no case did he seek credit for insights or analysis that had been purloined. In short, not only is there no fire, there isn’t even any smoke.”
But if you look at the evidence, Gorsuch appears to have stolen other people’s intellectual property. As Gannon explains, he stole their research and passed off their work in primary sources as his own, and then failed to cite their original work that alerted him to the existence of the sources.
WTF with the distinction between “language or facts” versus “ideas or arguments?” Maybe I’m just mired in a definition from “academia or journalism,” but I’m dubious that there is such a thing as “legal philosophy” that doesn’t require the citation of sources for “language or facts” as well as “ideas [and] arguments.” In fact, it seems like the non-White House proferred experts consulted by Politico agree that ripping off “language or facts” is the same as “ideas and arguments,” because the cure is exactly the same: cite your evidence, which is exactly what Gorsuch fails to do:
In the most striking example, Gorsuch, in his book, appears to duplicate sentences from an Indiana Law Journal article written by Abigail Lawlis Kuzma without attributing her. Instead, he uses the same sources that Kuzma used: A 1982 Indiana court ruling that was later sealed, a well-known pediatrics textbook, “Rudolph’s Pediatrics,” and a 1983 article in the Bloomington Sunday Herald.
How many times have we all found students who Googled up an article or a book, cited a bunch of eclectic primary and secondary sources, and then failed to cite their original source? Countless times, I am sure! And you don’t even need the Google–your Spidey Senses alert you, and you pretty much know what you’ll find when you go online. This is only slightly more sophisticated than cutting and pasting directly from someone else’s work, but then we’d expect someone with degrees from Columbia and Oxford Universities to be more than capable of this even sneakier ripoff of other people’s work.
Check out the Politico article–it’s got a wonderful graphic, helpfully highlighted with matching colors to note the exact or strikingly similar language to Kuzma’s article, now 33 years old. If Gorsuch had been the slightest bit generous or careful, he would have cited Kuzma, and none of us ever would have heard of this book chapter or of her original article, because duh, it’s a 33-year old journal article! Whatevs! But I guess this is what Gorsuch thinks of other people, especially women: they’re there to serve his needs, as the PR campaign continues to roll out more photos of him hiking, skiing, and rafting down the Colorado River.
(As a Coloradoan--for now, anyway–I’m starting to wonder if this is a peculiarly local disease of Republican male politicos in the state. Perhaps some of you will remember the plagiarism scandal of 2010 that brought down the leading Republican candidate for governor, Scott McInnis. That was a great lesson for my students early in the current decade, and you better bet that I’ll be discussing this story in both of my classes when we meet again tomorrow.)
I feel really bad for Kuzma. Not only did Gorsuch clearly rip her off, she can’t (or won’t) complain about it. She’s a Republican, and I’m sure she hates being in the position of embarrassing the Federalist Society’s Test Tube Candidate!
Kuzma, a one-time aide to former Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), did not respond to an inquiry from POLITICO, but released a statement through Gorsuch’s team. Kuzma said she does “not see an issue here, even though the language is similar.”
“These passages are factual, not analytical in nature,” Kuzma, now a deputy attorney general in Indiana, said. “It would have been awkward and difficult for Judge Gorsuch to have used different language.”
Finally, let’s pretend that Politico ran an article just like this one accusing Sonya Sotomayor or Elena Kagan of plagiarism. What do you think would have been the result?
Like I’ve said all along: those Trumpstains are going to be a bitch to remove. The Human Stain is spreading, spreading, polluting everyone it touches.