On the eve of the U.S. Senate vote on the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, charges have been leveled against him of plagiarism in a book and an article he wrote.
This is important because Gorsuch until now has been portrayed by Republicans as a candidate whose character and scholarship are above reproach.
Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner was the first to report on a 2000 article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy and his work in a 2006 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, Gorsuch uses the same facts, words and paragraph structure as an article that appeared in the Indiana Law Journal, by Abigail Lawlis Kuzma.
Gorsuch does not give Kuzma any credit, but rather in the article and an accompanying footnote uses the same original sources she used.
There are other examples. For instance, New York Magazine reports that, “Gorsuch appears to lift his description of euthanasia activist Derek Humphry from the 2003 book A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America by Ian Dowbiggin.”
POLITICO created this helpful graphic to demonstrate how Gorsuch had lifted word-for-word passages from a 1984 law journal article.
The book Gorsuch wrote was based on his dissertation at Oxford University. While the White House and some scholars felt it wasn’t a big deal, others disagree.
The passages violate Oxford’s guidelines for avoiding plagiarism, six experts told Politico: “Rebecca Moore Howard, a Syracuse University professor, said Gorsuch is guilty of ‘heavy patchwriting’ – the term for borrowing from another work, with only small alterations – and ‘hides his sources, which gives the appearance of a very deliberate method. I would certainly call it plagiarism.'”
Whether it is an ethical violation, which it appears to be, it does raise a question about Gorsuch’s character and qualifications to sit on the highest court.
He may have avoided answering any of the hard questions put to him by Democrats at his confirmation hearing, but this is something Gorsuch can’t make go away.
Even as Democrats filibuster, the Republicans appear ready to do anything, even change the historic rules of the Senate, to force Gorsuch’s nomination forward. But once again it is symbolic of a party and President who play fast and loose with facts and the truth to push their agenda that their candidate for the high court has been known to do the same.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.