Blog Network

About The Bloggers


Lawyer Sanctioned for Plagiarism in Brief

Eugene Volokh posts here about the case of  bankruptcy attorney Peter Cannon, who was sanctioned by a federal bankruptcy court for filing a pre-hearing brief where all but the introduction and conclusion were lifted from a law review article that Cannon never cited in his brief. Cannon apparently plagiarized in the post-hearing brief as well, though there he apparently wrote most of the brief himself and merely lifted several string-cites and parentheticals from the article (again, without attribution).

Reading the actual decision, I found it interesting how the court discovered the plagiarism. Apparently, after reading the briefs, the court "concluded that both contained an extraordinary amount of research." Thus, the court directed Mr. Cannon to certify the author of the brief. Cannon certified that he prepared both briefs and relied heavily on an online article by two Morgan Lewis attorneys. The court located the article on the Internet and at that point discovered the plagiarism.

As a penalty, the court required Cannon to disgorge his fee (a total of $5735.50, reduced from $11,500) for preparing the brief, apologize to the Morgan Lewis attorneys who authored the article (though they are probably benefiting quite a bit from the free publicity on the blogosphere and are probably thanking Cannon!), perform 100 hours of community service and complete a course of professional responsibility.

Given that Cannon never gave attribution to the article's authors, it's hard to defend his actions. Of course, the court went a bit overboard, I think, suggesting that plagiarism leads to a parade of horribles such as burdening the court, undercutting a client's cause, generating criticism of the legal profession and reflecting a lack of integrity that reflects badly on the entire profession. That's a bit of overkill, if you ask me. 

The case would have been more interesting  and provided more guidance if, for example, Cannon had noted that the string-cites and parentheticals were cited in the article. Many times, courts will lift string-cites and parentheticals from other judicial opinions, with a notation such as "cited in ..." Is that plagiarism -- or precedent?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 7, 2007 at 07:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


About ALM  |  About  |  Customer Support  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms & Conditions