Attorney Sanctioned for Plagiarizing Article in His Brief:

Among other things, the court held that even copying a long string citation, including the parentheticals, constituted plagiarism. Also, the court’s reasoning would seem to apply to copying from others’ briefs as well as to copying from others’ articles.

In support of his argument for removal of counsel, Mr. [Peter] Cannon, on behalf of his client, filed an eighteen-page brief titled “Defendants (sic) Brief in Support of Removal of Attorneys for the Trustee” on November 3, 2006 …. On November 17th, Defendant filed a nine-page post-hearing brief titled “Defendants (sic) Post Hearing Brief in Support of Removal of Attorneys for Trustee.” Mr. Cannon, as counsel for Defendant, signed both briefs….

Seventeen of the nineteen total pages in the pre-hearing brief are verbatim excerpts from the Article [Why Professionals Must Be Interested in “Disinterestedness” Under the Bankruptcy Code, by William H. Schrag and Mark C. Haut of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP]. Mr. Cannon added some introductory material, a one-page section titled “Argument,” and a conclusion. In between the introduction and argument, most of the first twenty pages of the Article are reproduced verbatim [without attribution]….

While Mr. Cannon’s post-hearing brief contains more original material than his pre-hearing brief, it still continues to borrow heavily from the Article. Mr. Cannon wrote much of the brief’s text, but reproduced string citations from the Article for supporting authority. The citations he selected are presented in the same order in which they appear in the Article, with the same parenthetical explanations. Aside from these reproduced citations, Mr. Cannon did not add any case law in support of his position…. Mr. Cannon … takes the position that the act of copying citations was not plagiarism….

It is a violation of the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct for an attorney to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.” Iowa Rules of Prof’l Conduct R. 32:8.4. Plagiarism, which is “[t]he deliberate and knowing presentation of another person’s original ideas or creative expressions as one’s own,” Black’s Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004), is a form of misrepresentation. Iowa Supreme Court Bd. of Prof’l Ethics & Conduct v. Lane, 642 N.W.2d 296, 300 (2002); accord In re Lamberis, 443 N.E.2d 549 (Ill. 1982) (finding plagiarism constitutes deceit under Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility); cf. United States v. Jackson, 64 F.3d 1213, 1219 n.2 (8th Cir. 1995) (disapproving of a brief that “directly track[ed]” a circuit court opinion which the attorney did not cite)….

[A]t least one court has found that reproducing material consisting primarily of citations is in fact plagiarism. See Frith v. State, 325 N.E.2d 186, 188 (Ind. 1975) (attorney who reproduced more than ten pages of an American Law Report in his brief committed plagiarism)…. The particular citations appropriated by Mr. Cannon list dozens of cases, and provide a quote or synopsis for each case that explains its relevance to the authors’ argument. By passing off these citations as his own, Mr. Cannon plagiarized Schrag and Haut’s ideas and expressions just as surely as if he had copied an equivalent amount of text….

Mr. Cannon’s acts of plagiarism burden the Court, undercut his client’s cause, and generate criticism of the legal profession. Moreover, parroting a scholarly article in this way is not an effective type of advocacy. See Frith, 325 N.E. 2d at 189. More fundamentally, Mr. Cannon’s disregard for the true authors’ property rights in their ideas reveals a lack of integrity that reflects poorly on the legal profession. Lane, 642 N.W.2d at 300; Lamberis, 443 N.E.2d at 551. The egregiousness of Mr. Cannon’s conduct requires an appropriate sanction….

Because Mr. Cannon does not appreciate the nature of plagiarism, a continuing education class will not cure his ethical shortcomings. Mr. Cannon’s deficiency calls for the more-involved method of instruction offered in a law school course on professional responsibility. Mr. Cannon may complete the course at an accredited law school or arrange for private instruction from a professor of one of these institutions.

In re Burghoff (S.D. Iowa Aug. 21) (some citations omitted). Thanks to David Shemano for the pointer.