Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lack of Remorse or Explanation for Law School Plagiarism Keeps Student from Being Admitted to the Bar

It seems that a second year law student in Georgia didn't need to spend his third year in law school after all. The Georgia Supreme Court recently affirmed the determination of a hearing board that plagiarism committed by the student in an advanced Torts class (when he was a second year student) was enough to keep him from becoming a lawyer.

Hat tip: I learned about the case from a posting on the Legal Profession Blog, where it was posted by Michael S. Frisch, Ethics Counsel for the Georgetown Law Center.

The Georgia Supreme Court opinion focused on the student's failure to acknowledge to take any personal responsibility for the plagiarism:

A majority of the Board told White directly or by clear implication that
they did not believe his account of how and why he had submitted a paper at the
end of his second year of law school that was a virtually verbatim reproduction
of sections of five previously published sources, none of which was cited in the
paper. The Board gave White multiple opportunities to provide a fuller and
more convincing explanation for his conduct, but he declined to do so. The
Board voted tentatively to deny White certification of fitness to practice law.
White requested a formal hearing, and a hearing officer was appointed to
review the matter. At the hearing, White again failed to offer any credible
explanation for his plagiarism. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the
contrary, White was either unwilling or unable to admit that he deliberately took
sections of five previously published works, typed them word-for-word into his
computer, made minute changes in citations and wording, and then printed out
the resulting 35-page paper with 211 footnotes and submitted it to his professor
as his own work.

The hearing officer submitted a written report and recommendation to the
Board. The hearing officer specifically found that White’s explanation of the
plagiarism incident was not credible, that he had not yet accepted full
responsibility for his actions, and that he did not currently possess the character
and fitness required of a prospective member of the State Bar. The hearing
officer recommended final denial of White’s application for certification of
fitness to practice law, and the Board adopted White’s recommendation.

And the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the denial of his admission to the bar.

Print out a copy of the full opinion for your students (or better yet, make it a research exercises). It could very well be one of the most powerful handouts they will ever receive on plagiarism.

Posted by Mark E. Wojcik, filling in for Sue Liemer
(mew)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwriting/2008/01/law-school-plag.html

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