It is common in the author footnote of law review articles — you know, the footnote that follows the author’s name that tells you who the author is — to thank people who have read drafts of the articles and offered comments to help improve it. It is also common to follow that expression of gratitude with a remark that any errors in the article are responsibility of the author rather than the people who helped with it. Here are a few examples of the latter from recent articles, found by running a search for “thank! /p error! /s mine & da(2009)” in Westlaw’s popular journals and law reviews database:
All errors are mine and mine alone.
Any errors contained herein are mine.
All errors are mine.
All errors, of course, remain mine.
All errors contained herein are mine and mine alone.
All errors and conclusions are mine.
As always, any errors or oversights are mine alone.
Any errors that remain in the paper are mine.
The sentiment of the “all errors are mine” comment is supposed to be a generous one. You wouldn’t want anyone who just read the paper and offered some comments — or perhaps who helped do some research for it, such as a research assistant — to be blamed for errors in the paper.
At the same time, am I right that the “all errors are mine” comment is pretty useless? If a paper has an error in it, I put the responsibility for that on the author. If it’s a Bluebooking error, I might put the responsibility on the editors of the journal who were in charge of Bluebooking. But it would never occur to me to blame a person who read an article and offered comments for any errors found in the paper. Comments are just comments. They’re food for thought that the author can accept or reject, not a mandate to adopt the argument that the commenter suggests. The author is the person with her name on the front page: No one needs to be reminded that the author is ultimately responsible for the contents of what follows.
Assuming others see it the same way, can we all agree to retire the “all errors are my own” line? I realize that it isn’t the most pressing problem facing America right now. But it would be very easy to fix, and I don’t think anyone would miss it.