Skip to comments.The Big Mahatma: Laurence Tribe and the problem of borrowed scholarship
Posted on 09/24/2004 2:40:51 PM PDT by GeneD
SUPPOSE you were doing a little research into the history of Supreme Court nominations, and you learned from one book that Grover Cleveland "bested Benjamin Harrison by almost 100,000 votes in the election of 1888, but the vagaries of the electoral college caused him to lose the election" (p. 130).
And then, browsing through a later book on the topic, you read that Harrison is remembered for "losing the popular election in 1888 by 100,000 votes and still managing to take the Oval Office from incumbent President Grover Cleveland through the vagaries of the Electoral College" (p. 63).
Perhaps you'd think it merely a matter of curious--but not impossible--chance that both authors had used the same, memorable phrase: "vagaries of the Electoral College."
Suppose, however, more curiously, that further along in the newer book was the following description of the controversy surrounding Harry Truman's 1949 nomination of Sherman Minton to the High Court: "several Senators called on Minton to appear before the Judiciary Committee. Minton declined the 'invitation' and said that he would stand on his record as a Senator and a federal appellate judge" (p. 84).
Those ironic quotation marks around the word "invitation" might seem familiar. And, sure enough, there they are--and then some--in the earlier book, as well: "Republican Senators Homer Ferguson of Michigan and Forrest C. Donnell of Missouri requested that Judge Minton appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to respond to questions. He declined the 'invitation,' noting that he would stand on his record as a Judge and Senator" (p. 231).
By now, of course, your radar would be fully active, and you'd be scouring both books for telltale, otherwise inexplicable parallels. Like the phrase "Holmes mold," which appears in the later book as: "The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator George Norris, immediately made it clear to President Hoover that he and his fellow committee members, mostly Democrats and Progressive Republicans, would insist upon a liberal jurist in the Holmes mold" (p. 80).
In the earlier book, the same sentence can be found almost verbatim: "But almost at once the Chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, George W. Norris, made it plain to the President that he and his fellow committeemen, largely Democrats and Progressive Republicans, would insist on a judicial liberal in the Holmes mold" (p. 191).
It would no longer seem just a coincidence that both books refer to Truman's "buddies" benefitting from a "crony appointment" (p. 224 in the older book and p. 68 in the newer)--followed by "Truman . . . liked them; he liked their politics" in one, and "Harry liked his friends, and he liked their politics" in the other (p. 224 and p. 69).
Or that the earlier book recounts how "Others were rather more specific" when they "urged Hoover to nominate Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals"--since, after all, the later book recounts much the same thing, in much the same language: "Others were more specific" when they "urged Hoover to nominate Chief Judge Benjamin Cardozo of the New York Court of Appeals" in the newer (p. 191 and pp. 80-81).
And what if, finally, you were to discover an identical nineteen-word passage in both books: "Taft publicly pronounced Pitney to be a 'weak member' of the Court to whom he could 'not assign cases'"? (p. 164 and p. 83). The conclusion would then seem unavoidable: The later book is doing wholesale borrowing from the earlier.
Or, to make things rather more specific: In 1985, Harvard University's Laurence H. Tribe, the most famous and widely cited constitutional law professor in the United States, signed his name to a book called God Save This Honorable Court that now appears--how shall we say it?--perhaps "uncomfortably reliant" on a 1974 book called Justices and Presidents by the University of Virginia's Henry J. Abraham.
At least this will keep his butt off the Supreme Court.
I hope they can get this to stick -- Tribe has been one of the intellectual gurus justifying judicial imposition of left-wing social policies based on vague "Constitutional" principles. However, he will probably point to the listing of the copied book in the short bibliography at the end as if that should exculpate him.
A lot of acedemic careers are going to go up in smoke. Not that there is any wrong with that.
Tribe can blame ist on a bug in the 1972 edition of MSWord.
We can hope.
Dog bites man.
"A lot of acedemic careers are going to go up in smoke
Let 'em flip burgers!"'Tis a far, far better job than I have ever held" - at least as regards honesty and productivity.
Amazon is going to do searchable text on their site. I bet there will be a few weeks, when it first comes on line, that somone will do a kewl tool for plagarism detection, and find a whole herd of frauds.
I agree that plagiarism will be easer to spot - but not forgery. Imagine the CBS/Rathergate issue if the time of the memos had been post 1992. At some point - all documents, with the ubiquity of Microsoft Word and standard computer based fonts - will look alike. Forging a 2002 memo should be infinitely easier than a 1972 document from an electromechanical device like at typewriter.
Tribe is more renown for his view that the Constitution is a flexible document capable of amendment by construction. Very nice for the liberal element.
Even. More. Delicious:
Laurence Tribe BLOVIATED about The Crimson calling for Doris Kearns Goodwin to be removed from the Board of Overseers for her plagiarism.
Now maybe they both can get a job across the street at Gnomon Copy.
How long before we hear?:
"I mistakenly relied on my researcher. And there was a problem in transcribing my handwritten notes. And this was an inadvertent inclusion by my editor of my research notes. This was never supposed to appear in the published edition. And, uh, my dog ate my Word program."
After reading the article carefully, I'd call it plagiarism, plain and simple. Usually plagiarism involves copying large blocks of text. But if, as Bottum claims, Tribe did this numerous further times, then there's no getting around it. He stole a large part of his book from Abraham without even a semblance of proper acknowledgment.
Blaming it on research assistants is nonsense. If you use a research assistant, it's your job to check the work. For one thing, I would never trust a transcription of some passage, I would want a photocopy. For another, this is not taken from some obscure source, it was taken from one of the best known books on the subject which I'm sure Tribe had on his own bookshelf.
Someone whom I prefer not to name once appropriated some very basic ideas from one of my books, which she happened to have seen before publication in typescript. On the basis of the resulting book, she was offered a tenured position at Cornell. I think she got away with it because her book was more politically correct than mine. To say the least, it was annoying.
But in the case of someone like Tribe, who was responsible for the borking of Bork and no doubt the questionably constitutional stonewalling of Bush's judicial nominees over the past four years, this story deserves to be widely made known.
Judges and judicial advisers are supposed to be above suspicion. Tribe clearly fails the test. His scholarship and his judicial opinions clearly cannot be trusted after this revelation of his fundamental dishonesty.
Yes, calling Dorts Kearnes! A lot of academics are going to be exposed.
I thought the recent ability to discover old frauds would interest you. More to come, I trust.
Have you seen John Fund's book on vote fraud? He discusses ballot spiking in FL. Did he credit you?
Yes, there will come a day when you'll be able to upload two files or ebooks, tell the software how many identical words in a row you want to flag, hit start and vola! you will not only bust the future cheaters, but all those from the past.
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