Friday, October 22, 2010

Unusually high quality briefs lead to reprimand

Via this ABA Journal article, I saw this opinion about a lawyer who was sanctioned for plagiarizing page after page of an article and filing it as his own briefs.

The opinion from the Iowa Supreme Court says the trial court judge got suspicious having found the briefs to be of "unusually high quality," which surely is better than a plagiarized brief of unusually low quality but unethical nonetheless under the circumstances of this case.

The Court explained:

"We recognize that the term "plagiarism" is something of a scarlet letter that imposes a brand on a wide variety of behaviors. We do not believe our ethical rules were designed to empower the court to play a "gotcha" game with lawyers who merely fail to use adequate citation methods. This case, however, does not involve a mere instance of less than perfect citation, but rather wholesale copying of seventeen pages of material. Such massive, nearly verbatim copying of a published writing without attribution in the main brief, in our view, does amount to a misrepresentation that violates our ethical rules."