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April 05, 2017 12:54 PM UTC

Neil "McPlagiarist" Gorsuch, Anyone?

  • by: Colorado Pols
Scott “McPlagiarist” McInnis.

Politico reporting on a story that could shake up the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation battle over Judge Neil Gorsuch–but may not, given that Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate have locked down in determination to confirm him come hell or high water:

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material in his book and an academic article, according to documents provided to POLITICO.

The documents show that several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.

The findings come as Republicans are on the brink of changing Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch over the vehement objections of Democrats. The documents could raise questions about the rigor of Gorsuch’s scholarship, which Republicans have portrayed during the confirmation process as unimpeachable…

We learned a great deal about what academically constitutes plagiarism back in 2010, when it was discovered that GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Scott McInnis had extensively plagiarized articles on water policy authored by former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs. Like Justice Hobbs in 2010, the original author of the work allegedly plagiarized by Gorsuch is being quite gracious about it–even suggesting that Gorsuch’s reuse of her words is acceptable, which is a bit farther than Hobbs went for McInnis.

What we can tell you is that the examples of apparent plagiarism citied by Politico do not appear to be close cases:

Apparently, Gorsuch attempted to conceal the plagiarism by citing not the article he copied and pasted from, but the sources cited by the original author. That, combined with the unmistakably identical reused verbiage with only very minor changes, is a major red flag for deliberate plagiarism. If Gorsuch had been in school when this article was published, we find it hard to imagine that he would escape severe academic sanction.

So what does it mean for Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee? That depends on how Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate respond to these revelations. Obviously Democrats already lined up to filibuster need no further convincing–so the question is whether any Republicans Senators recall from their college days that plagiarism is a really bad thing for scholars and especially Supreme Court nominees to do.

And who have the courage to speak up at the eleventh hour.


58 thoughts on “Neil “McPlagiarist” Gorsuch, Anyone?

  1. This is pretty fundamental stuff that he had to have known.  Not only does he have his JD from Harvard, but he got a DPhil (Ph.D) from Oxford as well.  One of the most rudimentary things you learn from a course of study like that is when to credit sources and how to incorporate other peoples' ideas into your own writing.

    That citing back to a primary source while copying the secondary is a pretty obvious tell that it was intentional, too.

  2. On the other hand, these and other examples I have seen are just definitions of conditions, not analytical.  As a matter of law, facts cannot be copyrighted.   

    And if he had wanted to steal an idea, why credit the original source?  If I quote Mathew 25 from wikipedia, I don't credit Wikipedia, but the version of the Bible.  It is easy to copy swaths of material for sourcing and that means we can get sloppy about citing secondary sources.   But the scandal here is not that an idea was stolen by Gorsuch but that a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court was stolen from Obama by Mitch McConnels gangster regime.









    1. It's not a definition of a condition, it's a synthesis of the parameters of the condition that you get for free, rather than having to read the original medical text and devise one yourself.  In this case, Gorsuch had to read the synthesis, look to the footnotes, copy the synthesis (which, probably is a protected expression and not "a fact," by the way.) and then choose to use the footnote from the secondary work, when it is perfectly acceptable to quote from the secondary work and cite it.  The only reason you do something like that is to "beef up" your sources such that you look like you are more learned, or well read, or have relied on foundational texts rather than the work of others who did what you did not.

      Also, whether or not facts can be copyrighted, plagiarism is using the words someone else has used without attribution– it's not about ownership, it's about respect and distinguishing between ideas that are yours and the ideas of others.  Although it can be a copyright violation, it is always an ethical one.

      1. It is indeed a definition, which you bloviate into a "synthesis of parameters".   WTF does that mean?  The author of the supposedly stolen language agrees it was definitional, and that it would have been awkward to change it.  If I recite the CRS definition of mopery , it is not plaigiarism, even if I don't cite the statute.  

        Really, sudy, if a "synthesis of parameters" is the best you can do, you are confusing pomposity with scholarship, and not for the first time.

          1. In English common law, mopery was supposedly the offense of indecently exposing oneself to a blind person of the opposite sex.   It is an article of faith in every law school in the land, but possibly apocryphal. Also, a silly, non-existent offense.  The joke, of course, rests in the fact that to prove mopery, you would need a sighted witness, at which point the crime stops being mopery and becomes plain old indecent exposure.  But what if the witness is of the same sex as the offender?  In short, the possibilities for drool pettifoggery are endless!  Even law students deserve a little fun.

              1. Pettifoggery is Latin for "chickenshit"  

                Concern solely with minor disputable points, swallowing the elephant while choking on the gnat.  Missing the point.

                If feeble memory serves, no less a light than Franz Kafka wrote of pettifogging lawyers in "The Trial."

                As a friend said to me in high school, "Somebody said you eat shit on rye bread.  I defended you, because I know you don't eat rye bread."

                That is pettifoggery.  It's also high school, sigh.

              1. No law school but 40 years of covering the legislature where they make the laws does teach you something.  Plus, I do have  paralegal certificate from Community College of Denver with 30 credits in law courses, about the equivalent of a year of law school.  And my daughter is a DU law school grad, and I worked part time as a paralegal after leaving the Denver Post, so I know the culture pretty well.

        1. I forgot what an abuse-fest it was to try having a conversation with you.  I made a perfectly reasonable counter-argument.  I didn't say anything unpleasant about you.  I just disagreed.  You certainly also have a reasonable case to argue.  Yet, you feel compelled to shit on me multiple times for no reason other than to make yourself feel important.

          I'll go back to blocking your posts.  My bad.

          1. Don't block them, Sudy,  just resynthesize their parameters.   Then, dry your tears, snowflake.   I forgot what a delicate soul you are.

            1. Telling someone that they are "too sensitive"  or "a snowflake" for being offended at your abusive name calling is gaslighting. Telling them that they are "full of rage" or "frothing at the mouth" during a reasonable discussion or disagreement –  is also gaslighting. It is systematic denial of reality. It is a form of mental abuse.  Been there, done that, bought the T shirt.

              When several separate adults begin to block your posts, refuse to engage with you, or engage in long, pointless name calling fests over a period of several days, it's just possible that the other people are not the problem.…you are.



              1. All that "snowflake" and "your tears" crap also smacks of a serious inferior personality, who thinks that anonymously posturing like a middle school bully in text makes them some kind bad hombre.   Gotta wonder at the history behind that need. 

                1. OK, Curmy, but retaliating with supposed insights into another's mental health or history is also gaslighting. Two wrongs don't make a right, etc.

                  I mean, Voyageur works to provoke, and has a mean streak; since I prefer not to let other people pull my strings, I ignore or block him about half the time. It's a shame, because he is smart and insightful, occasionally funny….like you, and many others on here.

                  1. Not superior. But do know gaslighting and verbal abuse. Like I said, been there, done that, bought the T shirt.

                    It’s a two mouse click process to block or unblock you, Moderatus, AC, and PP. The stylish extension Psuedo wrote sits on the taskbar and works great.

                    When I’m busy or tired, I don’t have to wade through pages of PP’s asinine talking points, AC’s digs, or you and Curmy drearily hurling abuse at each other. I can search for something interesting, and if nothing inspires me to post, just log off.

                    1. "Superior " retort twas to crummy, mj, who was putting on his brownshirt airs.  This is actuLly the first time I've used the snowflake insult.  Kind of like it when you have the foe on the runsmiley

                    2. What foe?  What the hell is it with you and your fantasizing that typing is noble combat?   I just don't have the same ego-internet attachment that you and MJ do.  I can't get offended by anonymous attacks, whether they're your comical posturing or MJ's sniffs of derision, because you have no impact on my life.  It would be silly to feel anything about what some anonymous person types, now wouldn't it?  

                    3. Here you go again curmy , another furious missive to prove you DON'T CARE  a bit!  Tee hee.

                    4. Nobody's furious, Veege.  The reactions you think you're getting are as made-up as the rest of your fantasies.   As I've said, your M.O. Is the same; claim victory if someone responds, claim victory if they don't.  Awfully Trumpian, isn't it?  

                           You put far too much importance on these "battles" you wage, but my inability to feel anything about what you say isn't personal.  I don't care what any anonymous online entity thinks of me.  Why should I?   I keep going back to the dog shit on the sidewalk analogy because it's fitting; when the dog shit attaches itself to your shoe, it's annoying, sure; but it's not a victory for the dog shit, as you keep claiming. 

                           I do get some amusement, I'll admit, picturing you sitting at the computer, stroking a white persian cat while you diabolically type, "We meet again, Curmudgeon…you stupid doody head." (Yes, I made myself the Bond character in this scenario.  My vision, my rules).  But it's the Walter Mitty fantasies of brave conflict, combined with your grade-school rules "I said I win, and NO taps back" that are the funniest. It's like Pee-Wee Herman reciting the lines from Gladiator.   

                      A first-year psychology student (or anyone who's been married to a frustrated middle-aged man) could dissect your "bad boy" persona in minutes. I don't feel the need to.  It's obvious to anyone with a couple of brain cells to rub together.     

                      In short, if acknowledging a piece of dog shit is a victory for the dog shit, as you keep claiming, you've set a very low bar for achievement.  

                    5. And still another 500 word shriek of obscenity to prove how laid back you are and so indifferent to everybody llaughing at you!

              2. Given that Sudy once went endlessly in an effort to convince me that the Holocaust was NOT a violation of international law, I'll maintain a wary position.  And the use of barbarous pomposity like "synthesizing parameters " is downright Orwellian, when the word "definition" serves well.

              3. The last time you blocked me was because you were furious that I proved you wrong about something!  So, how are you reading this if you kept that block threat?

                1. Larson E. Pettifogger is the lawyer in the Wizard of Id comic strip. The artist created him to look like W.C. Fields in one of his drunk roles, complete with red nose (younger people can do a google).  Draw your own conclusions.

  3. So wait….lemme see if I got this straight….are they expecting to get republicans to vote against Gorsuch in an effort to defeat the "nuclear" option with… this? 

    Man, is this what it has really come to?


  4. Taking another author's words nearly verbatim is plagiarism. It doesn't matter if one is copying fact, fiction, or opinion. And plagiarism can occur even in the absence of a copyright violation, so it's irrelevant that Gorsuch was setting forth the facts of a case. The entire plagiarized excerpt, as quoted by Politico, is far more than a definition of Down's syndrome and esophegeal atresia.

    What Gorsuch did was deceptive, as well. He covered his tracks by citing the sources the law review article used. In the normal process of reviewing the work, an editor (or fact checker) would have reviewed those original sources, found that those sources were being used properly, and concluded that Gorsuch wasn't making unfair use or or plagiarizing those sources. 

    If my team of law review editors had discovered this, the article would have been rejected–possibly with a letter to the author's dean stating the reason (law review articles are almost always authored by law professors). And, if it had been submitted by a student for class credit (and usually writing a student note for a law review is for credit), it could have been referred as an honor code violation.

    Of course, this isn't academia. Only a live boy or a dead girl can stop Gorsuch at this point. 

    1. Only a live boy or a dead girl can stop Gorsuch at this point. 

      And even under those circumstances, I think he gets 50 votes and they bring Pence in to break the tie.

    2. Old Time Dem – you seem incredibly knowledgeable on the matter and I wonder if you could re-write a more (or equally) concise rendition of the text and convey the same information as the original author in a fashion that would not be considered plagiarism? I am curious as to how that looks because when I look at the differences between the two texts, there are very view words to replace or change to get the same facts. 

      I would certainly appreciate it and find it a learning experience. 

      1. I don't know what the original source was, although I think it might have been a court opinion.  I recognize that it can be difficult to take a recitation of facts from a case and make it your own. But if you can't, one solution is to simply block quote the material and provide a proper citation. Or exercise editorial discretion–is it actually relevant what the precise condition of the the child was, as opposed to simply stating that she had a grave but generally correctable congenital disorder that would have been fatal if untreated?

        1. Thank you. Would you consider the lack of block quoting and citation of a recitation of facts of a court opinion adequate infraction to block a nomination to the Supreme Court?

          1. It does point to a fundamental dishonesty.

            Plagiarism, at bottom, is simple. It is using someone else's words, and not giving the real author credit.  All of the hoo-ha about secondary sources, vs primary sources seems to me beside the point. Gorsuch used another's words and ideas, without giving the author credit. He plagiarized.  In this case, the author was the "synthesizer". Synthesizing information is a high level skill. Gorsuch is supposed to be such a fabulous writer – he should have been able to manage synthesis on his own.

              People have and will continue to fail college classes, be kicked out of governorship races (Hello, Scott McGinnis.), lose tenured positions, and more, for simple plagiarism. So yes, I would see it as disqualifying for a Supreme Court nominee, because I would think they would be held to the highest standards possible.

            But that's not why I'm asking my Senators to block Gorsuch He should be blocked because a) he has no right to the SCOTUS seat, since the GOP Senators threw precedent and their constitutional role out the window in refusing to consider Garland.

            Secondly, he's an extremist nutcase who prefers a narrow biblical interpretation of the Constitution, elevating his personal religious beliefs about sexuality and reproduction above the "originalist" language he supposedly is for.

            1. Much better reasons Mama. As a teacher, are you able frame the text into a more or equally concise fashion to provide the same amount of info without being considered plagiarism?

              Here's the text: 

              “Down’s syndrome or “Mongolism” is an incurable chromosomal disorder that involves a certain amount of physical deformity and an unpredictable degree of mental retardation. Esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula indicates that the esophageal passage from the mouth to the stomach ends in a pouch, with an abnormal connection between the trachea and the esophagus”

              Please show me how to do this.

                1. Yes, yes I can. But it was not a direct quote. There were few words in the text that could be changed and retain the meaning, which is near definition and offered very little wiggle room, in my opinion to manipulate words to retain the same meaning. It appears that Gorsuch, who I have no favorable allegiance to whatsoever, made changes to the text in an effort to not plagiarize. The original author probably had to do the same thing as to not plagiarize the dictionary.




              1. Since it's a quote from a law journal about a medical matter, and neither of those areas of expertise are in my own wheelhouse, I would definitely block quote, probably using APA style in-text citation (Kuzma, 19___), with the complete reference cited in the footnotes or bibliography.

                In terms of what Gorsuch should have written, it depends on his purpose – what did he want to use the "Baby Doe" information for? What was he arguing or proving?

                If I , a non-legal, non-medical-expert  , were writing this for a lay audience, I might write something like the following:

                Euthanasia is the controversial practice of hastening or causing death of people who have little or no chance for a normal life,  and/or would suffer extreme pain or hardship.

                A classic example of the moral dilemma around euthanasia is the case of Baby Doe, born with congenital "Downs Syndrome" abnormalities in 1982 (Kuzma, 19___)….etc




                1. I did not think that was the text in question, based on the highlights. Your attempt did not, as the highlighted text shows, make any indication of what Down's Syndrome or Esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula "is".

              2. “Baby Doe” (an appellation used to protect the family’s privacy) was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on April 9, 1982, with two congenital anomalies….

                One, Down's Syndrome, resulted in both physical and mental deficits.  The other, known as esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula, meant that food and drink would pass through the esophagus but end up in the infant's lungs rather than its stomach.  Although the esophagus could be repaired with a routine surgery, the parents declined to allow the procedure.[1]

                [1] Kuzma, Abigail Lawlis (1984) "The Legislative Response to Infant Doe," Indiana Law Journal: Vol. 59 : Iss. 3 , Article 3. Available at:

            2. I haven't taken a position on gorsuch, and probably won't .  I guess the world can get by without my advice this one time.   He's probably the best we'll get from the Trump regime.  Butike you, I think the seat is stolen, which isn't gorsuch's fault.   If I could I would wait till 2021 and let president McCaskill fill what would probably be at least two seats

              .Oddly enough, while I knew both his parents very well, I've never met neil.  By the end of her life, Anne Gorsuch despised me.  But alcohol had eroded a once fine mind.  

          2. Nope. It knocks some of the shine off of golden boy's halo, and Oxford and his publisher should take a closer look at his dissertation and his book.

  5. Well, old time, if you read the Politico piece, you will find a lot of lawyerly types disagree with you and others concur.  But did you mean to say "Gorsuch WASN'T making unfair use?"  Your second graf seems to contradict the conclusion.  

    Your right, of course, that this train has left the station.

     If you don't mind saying, where did you go to law school?  

    1. No, my second paragraph describes the deceptive nature of his conduct. If he had restated the primary sources it would have been fair use and, since he cited them, it would have satisfied the standards for legal citation. The editor would have been none the wiser that he actually copied it from another publication.

      The experts Politico consulted all agree that Gorsuch violated academic standards.

      White House-produced "experts" disagree, including Robert P. George, who is better know for being a theocratic anti-abortion activist than an expert on academic standards, and other people who appear to have had a hand in granting Gorsuch his Phd. The Politico article says that "[t]he experts offered by the White House asserted that the criteria for citing work in dissertations on legal philosophy is different than for other types of academia." That is some grade A bullshit. 

      1. No, OTD   Grouch DID cite the original sources, not the secondary, Guzma.   Sudy said "when it is perfectly acceptable to quote from the secondary work and cite it.  The only reason you do something like that is to "beef up" your sources such that you look like you are more learned, or well read, or have relied on foundational texts rather than the work of others who did "

        The thrust of the Politico article seems to back up Sudy's criticism, not yours.   Sudy is mad because he didn't cite the Secondary source,   You're mad because he didn't cite the primary.   I think you got caught in double negative land,   if not, what am I missing?

        1. You're missing pretty much everything.

          Copying a secondary source while citing to a primary source is wrong (because copying is wrong) and deceptive (because citing the primary source covers up the copying).

          Acceptable choices include:

          (a) Use the primary source but put it in your words (i.e., don't slavishly copy) and cite the primary source.

          (b) Blockquote the secondary source (thus indicating that you are using someone else's words–i.e., copying their work) and cite the secondary source.

          Note that copying the secondary source is not made ok by citing the secondary source. That is still plagiarism, although it does make the editors job a lot easier.


          1. OK, I flat out disagree with you.   It is not possible to plagiarize a source and credit it, since plagiarism is, by definition, copying without credit.  If I copy the Gettysburg address in an editorial, which I have, and credit it, it ain't plagiarism.   I'afraid your zeal to bash gorsuch outran your gasp on logic.

            but thanks for the exposition  I agree your plan b is optimal in this case, but paraphrasing, and citing, is also kosher,

            1. Copying with misattribution can be plagiarism.

              Copying with attribution can be plagiarism, too. The proper way to do it is to quote–not copy.

              If you "copied" the Gettysburg address, that could be a foul, depending on context; for example, if the copied part is a well-known phrase, it may be clear from the context that you aren't claiming authorship.

              I don't know how to make this clearer to you: copying is bad. That's one of the basic lessons we all learn back in elementary school, with some refinements later on for particular professions. If Gorsuch copied a law review article while citing a different source, that is a breach of academic ethics.


              1. He copied a definition, not an article.   And he attributed it to the original authors of that definition.  No harm, no foul, no intent to deceive.

                1. The entire section is more than just definitions; it's a narrative of the facts of the case. That has been pointed out several times.

                  It is possible that both Gorsuch and Guzma followed the original source too slavishly, which would make it appear that Gorsuch cribbed from Guzma. That's a foul, too, but a lesser one.

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