Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The McInnis plagiarism business: how to spell Rollie's last name?

In a post on the McInnis plagiarism business titled Scott McInnis plagiarism scandal no big deal to attorney disclipline czar , Alan Prendergast notes the infrequency of actual discipline in complaints against attorneys:

the OARC isn't known for zealous enforcement actions. Of the 5,000 complaints the agency receives each year, less than 10 percent are considered worthy of actual investigation, and only a small fraction of those cases lead to a public hearing.

The dispositive issue for Mr. Gleason of OARC was that McInnis had no knowledge of the copying done by his researcher Rollie Fisher (Fischer). No knowledge means no intent to copy without attribution.

What did not bother Mr. Gleason at all was that McInnis passed off the writing of Fisher as that of McInnis. There was no mention of Fisher in the work "authored" by McInnis.

This, sadly, confirms what Alan Dershowitz has said to the effect that the legal profession promotes a culture of copying.

In his post, Prendergast wrote:

But this line of argument neatly sidesteps one huge honking piece of evidence in the case -- the memo McInnis sent to Seeme Hasan on December 2, 2005, in which he declared, "The articles have been carefully documented, proofed and again at your insistence, written at a level that non-water experts could easily understand... All the Articles are original and not reprinted from any other source."

Documented? Nope; the absence of footnotes is one of its few charms. Proofed, maybe, but it's hard to tell, given the weird quirks of grammar and punctuation that seem to pass for the congressman's style. But by putting his name at the top, McInnis was representing that the stuff was indeed original. Acknowledging the aid of a research assistant, or even a ghost writer (which the project badly needed) doesn't absolve the principal of the duty to insure that what's being warranted as original is, in fact, original. In authorship and politics, the buck stops at the big guy's desk.

Any high schooler knows that passing off somebody else's work as your own is unethical. But that's real-world ethics. Attorney ethics operate in a more elevated realm -- somewhere between here and the 63 moons of Jupiter.

The Denver Post has an article titled Ex-GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis won't be disciplined in plagiarism complaint which raises some issues about the analysis by Mr. Gleason. One thing that is not stressed, but which is curious, is the spelling of the researcher's last name. The Denver Post indicates the name is Fischer, in contrast to the Gleason report which has the name as Fisher. The Denver Post wrote of the key piece of evidence, wherein McInnis disclosed Fischer to the Hasan Foundation:

Glenn Merrick, the foundation's attorney, said the only communication the foundation turned over to investigators that mentioned Fischer was a 2005 fax cover sheet from McInnis to Hasan. In it, McInnis said he was sending the foundation article No. 8 and that he believed the series was reaching its goal of educating the public.
"On a regular basis I have been assisted by Rolly Fischer, and his confidence that we are reaching our goal is high as well," the cover sheet states.

The problem with this plagiarism case is the political dimension. It became a big deal because of "who" was involved rather than "what" was involved, as was the situation with Glenn Poshard at SIU. This case had political consequences for McInnis, unlike Biden's Syracuse Law School plagiarism or Poshard's Ph.D. thesis plagiarism.

***UPDATE. Editorial of May 25, 2011
Editorial: Strange twist in McInnis dispute
The Denver Post emphasizes: McInnis, it has been asserted, specifically admonished a research assistant not to plagiarize when compiling a series of water policy articles that came to be so controversial.

One notes that all people are generally under guidelines "not to plagiarize." Did explicitly telling Fischer "not to plagiarize" really change anything? No. The background presumption would be "not to plagiarize."

***Separately, on bad things that can happen to lawyers

Who is the Client?: Advising Inventors, their Spouses, and their Start-Up Companies


Post a Comment

<< Home