Thursday, April 06, 2017

The Other Ethics Problem for Gorsuch That's Not Being Discussed

So Gorsuch has something of a plagiarism problem. This is 100% plagiarism without question. Less certain is if it's intentional plagiarism or incompetent writing, and more broadly whether what we're seeing is the whole extent of the problem and just the start. Another ethical layer is whether the plagiarism is originally Gorsuch's plagiarism or from an unacknowledged researcher whose work Gorsuch put out at as his own.

Years ago I was in a somewhat similar situation as Gorsuch (minus the hypothetical unacknowledged researcher). I was writing a chapter of a book on legal issues and like him I relied heavily on a law review article. In my case and unlike Gorsuch, I took a paragraph or two from the article, condensed them down to a sentence in my own words, and then cited the article. I repeated this multiple times. This is how I avoided "patchwriting," switching a few words here and there as Gorsuch did. There's a cost to this approach - the chapter wasn't as fully fleshed out as I wanted, and the heavy reliance on that one source could not have been more plain - but at least it was honest. It also cost me a lot of time to do this, so I'm not impressed with his alternative.

There is another ethics problem to what Gorsuch did that hasn't been touched AFAICT. He switched a few words from other people's works while keeping everything else the same, including their citations, and that's the problem - it is highly likely that he never verified the accuracy of those citations. When someone is cutting and pasting texts after massaging a few words, it seems there's very little chance the plagiarist spent the much greater amount of time to look up the citations. Gorsuch has no idea if his citations say what he says they say, and that's unethical.

One problem however is going from highly likely to proven - how do we show that he never checked them? Someone with the time can go and look them up, I suppose, and then it could come down to the accuracy of the author whose work was stolen.

Again this could be sloppy, incompetent plagiarism instead of an intentional practice, and it could have been him sponging off of a researcher. What really matters is if it happened a significant number of times in his work.


JohnMashey said...

See display of Gorsuch vs Kuzma, including footnotes.

This is same style used in dissecting Wegman/Said plagiarisms:
1) Shade identical in-order words in blue, using manual approximation of the 40+-year old UNIX diff(1) algorithm.

2) Insert line breaks so corresponding blue words aligned.

3) Shade yellow trivial edits, i.e., a word or two embedded in blue.

4) (optionally, shade obvious moves green, and bigger paraphrases orange.)

All this causes the extent of copying to be obvious, but exposes the edits, and those didn't get there by accident, and there's no way Gorsuch grabbed the text intending to quote it.

Here, one of the most interesting is:
a) The case was "in re Infant Doe" and Kuzma uses Infant.
Gorsuch knew this, because he referenced the case.

Google "Infant Doe" and the first hit is that Kuzma article.

b) Gorsuch changed the 4 cases of "Infant" to "Baby", and as a side-effect, Google "Baby Doe" generates a lot of noise, without Kuzma on early pages.
Gorsuch references "in re Infant Doe", but nowhere in the book is Kuzma mentioned, and the use of "Baby Doe" hides the Kuzma relationship.
Maybe that's accidental, but it is very strange.

This is like copy-editing a Wikipedia article, keeping some of the references, and as Brian notes, no way to tell whether or not consulted.

We have seen this before, like in Deep Climate's analysis of Wegman/Said article.

Fernando Leanme said...

He should have used the technique I use. For example, in "I interview Obama's former national security advisor" I plagiarized myself (I used the older interview with the Prince of Whales). I changed things around a bit, and inserted answers the subject being interviewed gave in previous interviews (spiced with a few fake added comments I'm sure they would have said). Given the amount of work a judge does he probably should have a template into which he simply does a word replacement, and tacks on the product of research by a clerk who is forced to sign a paper saying he or she will never plagiarize. What do you think?

rumleyfips said...

If his book is an expansion of his thesis, was these plagerism there ? If so, is his degree legitimate ?

Bernard J. said...

"What do you think?"

I think such standards don't even meet the term "standard".

At my institution students doing that would be failed and shown the door, after a brief interlude with the Ethics Office. We use plagiarism software and heavily forewarn all students and academic staff when they start, so there's no excuse. And self-plagiarism is currently being carefully reviewed, so even that loop-holes in that avenue are going to dry up.

Brian Schmidt said...

John - I agree the slight twisting is intentional. The one possible avenue for incompetence instead of planned plagiarism is that they intended to eventually delete much of what was plagiarized, and also they intended to cite it.

If this was intentional plagiarism all the way and was Gorsuch himself who did it, then I'd expect it wouldn't be unique and would show up elsewhere. If it wasn't Gorsuch but his unacknowledged researcher, then this might be a near-unique occurrence in his work. The latter possibility doesn't get him out of the ethical woods.

Fernando and rumley - I've personally both written material for others without being acknowledged, and have had material written for me by someone who's unacknowledged, but that's been in the right context - particularly non-academic writing. I can't speak to British academic standards but it doesn't fit well with American legal academia (I expect it's violated a fair amount tho).

Legal judicial opinions OTOH are heavily plagiarized from lawyer briefs without acknowledgment, but that's expected.

JohnMashey said...

Brian, here is some more info, including Gorsuch Wikipedia entry and more from the Google Books e-Book I bought, but a PDF is also online here.
There's also a (590p, 390MB!!) PDF of his dissertation..
Allegations of plagiarism for other works have been made, but this only addresses the one I've analyzed, i.e., the Infant/Baby section of his book AND his dissertation, because they are identical.

0) The dissertation Acknowledgments (PDF p.10) say:
" I wish to thank my supervisor, Professor John Finnis, for his patient and thoughtful guidance throughout the writing of this thesis. I owe a great deal, as well, to Professor John Keown and Dr. Timothy Endicott, for their careful reading of the thesis and their valuable comments. Judge Richard Posner, Professor Richard Epstein, Professor Daniel Klerman, Dr. Christian Mammen, and Todd Zubler all took the time to review and offer helpful suggestions on prior draft portions of this manuscript, and I am very much in their debt. I thank also Bernadette Murphy and Jessica Bartlow for their excellent editorial assistance, and the Marshall Scholarship Commission for its financial support of my studies at Oxford."

The Gorsuch book Acknowledgments say:
"I would like to thank... as well as Mark Bellis and Anita O'Brien for her help in editing the manuscript. Michael Pucci and Tom Humphries provided helpful research assistance. ...
I alone am responsible for errors and the views her are, of course, mine alone-not those of any other person or entity."
If there are issues with book that aren't in dissertation those may involve others or not, but the "Baby Doe" section is from his dissertation.

1) The Gorsuch text I showed is the *entire* section about Infant/Baby Doe, entirely copied/condensed from Abigail Kuzma, including the footnotes. There were no other sources, as is clear from the side-by-side.
Some of the edits even (slightly) lost information, like "an unpredictable degree" to "some degree".
The dissertation text is PDF pp.467-469, including footnotes 48-52, i.e., same numbers as book.

2) Google "infant doe" indiana AND THEN "baby doe" Indiana
the earlier references to the case used infant, but over time, more people called it baby.

3) "1. In re Infant Doe, No. GU8204-004A (Monroe County Cir. a. Apr. 12, 1982)" is the real case, as cited by Kuzma

Kuzma was at Indiana U, and presumably had access to the court judgment, there certainly were numerous specific references.
I did a quick search in the Indiana courts database, but couldn't find GU8204-004A, and it looks like the online files only go back to 1985.
(Maybe somebody else can find this, but from other experiences, there are often court records one has to visit the courthouse to get.)

The Gorsuch book (p.192) & dissertation (PDF pp. reference the declaratory judgment as:
"48. . In re Infant Doe, No. GU8204-004A (Monroe County Cir. Ct. Apr. 12, 1982) (unpublished declaratory judgment at 1)."

This hints that Gorsuch did not have access to the actual court records.

4) Bottom line: the entire "Baby Doe" section was copied & condensed from Kuzma, edited by Gorsuch, using Kuzma's primary references, with no credit to Kuzma.
Again, see post and click on each of the 2 pages to expand.

TW said...

54-45, Judge Gorsuch will become Justice Gorsuch on Monday! A great addition to the Court.

Russell Seitz said...

As Justice Gorsuch has passed out of range of John's astute mode of inquiry, may I again exhort him to apply it to such scientific historians as may have grandly gestured at achives containing the intact correspondance of persons they have condemned as anti-science without providing first hand quotation from original works.?

No recusals please-- scientists are not lawyers----yet.

JohnMashey said...

Gorsuch (2004, 2006) From Kuzma(1984) - Classic Copy-Paste-Edit In Color

82% of words copied in-order, goes downhill from there.

TW said...

Here are some other viewpoints on this question of plagiarism in Gorsuch's legal writings:

“The allegation is entirely without foundation,” Georgetown University’s John Keown said in a statement. “The book is meticulous in its citation of primary sources. The allegation that the book is guilty of plagiarism because it does not cite secondary sources which draw on those same primary sources is, frankly, absurd. Indeed, the book’s reliance on primary rather than secondary sources is one of its many strengths.”

“Having reviewed the allegations of ‘plagiarism’ against Judge Gorsuch, I can only say that their timing and substance (or, more to the point, lack of substance) makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that this is a politically motivated effort to smear him in the hope of derailing his confirmation as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Princeton professor Robert P. George said in a statement. “Judge Gorsuch did not attempt to steal other people’s intellectual property or pass off ideas or arguments taken from other writers as his own. In no case did he seek credit for insights or analysis that had been purloined. In short, not only is there no fire, there isn’t even any smoke.”

“It is standard in academic writing to cite primary sources for factual propositions. And none of the allegations of plagiarism in the Politico piece amount to the appropriation without attribution of other peoples’ ideas,” William Kelley, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, said.

These three above are professors at law schools. Everyone commenting on this thread, please raise your hands if you are a professor at a law school. Kuzma is a secondary source working off the same primary sources, which were cited.

Victor Venema said...

The German minister of War, Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Buhl-Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg, had to resign in 2011 because of similar plagiarism and his Dr title was revoked.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

TW - generally that's referred to as an argument by biased authority.

John Mashey's graphical analysis of now judge Gorsuch's propensity for plagiarism is considerably more persuasive for me. Your mileage obviously varies.

JohnMashey said...

VV: Have you seen False Feathers: A Perspective on Academic Plagiarism? (I did a review).

For all:
Gorsuch relied on a secondary source, apparently the only one he used, referencing a judgment that was *sealed*. False citation.

This is quite similar to something I've seen before seen before (from Said/Wegman): copy Wikipedia article w/o attribution, keeping references, although at least they were real references.

Some law professors don't bother to check the basics before talking.

Brian Schmidt said...

TW - I was an editor at a law journal. This work doesn't meet ethical standards. As for citing primary sources, that's correct, but you also have to cite any source whose work you use, and modest rewriting of Kuzma means Gorsuch used her work.

And as I suggested and John Mashey seems to have proven, Gorsuch cited sources he hasn't read - he doesn't know the cite is correct, and he's taken it from others' work.