February 25, 2013
What Not To Do When Submitting A Legal Memorandum To A Court
Here's a piece of legal research and writing advice for law students an attorneys alike: Don't copy stuff willy-nilly and submit it to the Court as part of a memorandum of law. Oh, and Shepardize (or KeyCite, or whatever Bloomberg uses as a verb for their citator) your cases. The ABA Journal reports on a case where Lindsey Lohan sued a rapper for using her name in a song. She claimed it violated her rights of publicity. The trial court found that using a name in an artwork was protected speech under the First Amendment. The defendants, however, asked for sanctions because significant portions of the memorandum in opposition was taken from another brief in an unrelated case (and not really on point) along with uncited portions of web content and articles. Here's what the Court said in footnote 6 of its opinion:
Defendants also assert, correctly in this Court’s view, that the Opposition was “rife with irrelevant discussion, . . . did not meaningfully address a single case cited by the [defendants] in support of their motion to dismiss, cited a case without disclosing it had been reversed, and essentially ignored every argument made by the [defendants].” (Defs.’ Sanctions Mem. at 11 (internal citations omitted).) According to defendants, the reason that the Opposition did not address the salient points raised in their motion to dismiss was because it was actually taken “nearly entirely and verbatim” from a legal memorandum plaintiff filed in an entirely different case. (Id. at 16 (emphasis omitted) (noting that approximately 14 or 15 pages of the Opposition were copied from a prior legal brief).) Plaintiff does not dispute this assertion.
The Court fined counsel $1,500 for the filing a false representation to the Court. Sanctions were not paid to the defendants who apparently knew about the plagiarism early on but did not inform the Court about it until much later in the proceedings. The Hollywood Reporter provides the opinion and order in the case. [MG]