Monday, May 23, 2011

McInnis cleared of disciplinary charges in plagiarism business

Of the Scott McInnis plagiarism business, the Denver Daily News reported:

But the Attorney Regulation Counsel of the Colorado Supreme Court said on Friday [20 May 2011] that there is “not clear and convincing evidence of a violation of the disciplinary rules” stemming from the incident.. A further conclusion:

“For all these reasons, there is no clear and convincing evidence Mr. McInnis knowingly engaged in dishonest conduct by either: (1) plagiarizing Justice Hobbs’ work, or (2) reporting to the Foundation that the articles were his original work,” states the report.

This is an incident wherein blame is placed on the subordinate research assistant (here, Rolly Fisher (Fischer)), rather than on the "author" who placed his name on the work:

According to the counsel’s findings, Fischer was responsible for the plagiarism, not McInnis.

“Mr. Fischer alone chose to import large sections of text previously written by the Honorable Justice Gregory Hobbs into one of the articles drafted for Mr. McInnis, without credit citation,” states the results of the investigation.

There is an interesting finding of fact in the report:

Mr. Fisher expected Mr. McInnis to treat the articles as his own work product without any reference or credit to Mr. Fisher.

Thus, one finds an irony in Mr. McInnis instructing Mr. Fisher "not to plagiarize" when Mr. McInnis intended to plagiarize the work of Fisher. Thus, McInnis ran into trouble because of derivative plagiarism: McInnis copied the work of Fisher, who in turn copied the work of Hobbs. This derivative copying was likely also involved in the plagiarism incident involving Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law. In that case, there was more of an understanding that ghost writing in itself is a form of plagiarism, which produced the convoluted apology of Tribe.

There is confusion between plagiarism and copyright infringement expressed by Fisher:

Fischer apparently argued that the use was not plagiarism because he believes the article is part of the “public domain,” according to the investigation, compiled from interviews with Fischer.

The May 20 letters of John S. Gleason, the Regulation Counsel, are on the internet.

Previous IPBiz post
Colorado Supreme Court justice victim of plagiarism

Was this incident politically motivated? You bet. But, authors have to take responsibility for what goes out under the name of the author. The handling of the McInnis incident re-enforces the Dershowitz remark about law being a culture of copying. It's sad that Mr. Gleason did not see the ghost writing as plagiarism.


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