Speed Reads

Gorsuch nomination

Judge Neil Gorsuch borrowed heavily for sections of published book, articles. But did he plagiarize?

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed to formally start debate on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, starting the clock on a major showdown about Senate minority rights and institutional traditions. The Senate will start holding votes on Thursday, likely ending with Republicans using the "nuclear option" to end filibusters and overcome Democratic resistance. On Tuesday night, Politico reported that in a 2006 book and earlier academic articles, Gorsuch had "copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material," throwing a last-minute charge of plagiarism into the bitter partisan battle.

The White House said there was nothing improper in Gorsuch's work, sending Politico quotes from a handful of scholars who have worked with Gorsuch or overseen his writing. "This false attack has been strongly refuted by highly regarded academic experts, including those who reviewed, professionally examined, and edited Judge Gorsuch's scholarly writings, and even the author of the main piece cited in the false attack," White House spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement. But Politico contacted six other experts on academic integrity, and they did not dismiss the similarities.

"Each of the individual incidents constitutes a violation of academic ethics," Rebecca Moore Howard, a Syracuse University professor, told Politico. "I've never seen a college plagiarism code that this would not be in violation of." She described what Gorsuch did as "heavy patchwriting," or copying another author's work but changing a few words, and hiding his sources, "which gives the appearance of a very deliberate method. I would certainly call it plagiarism." Elizabeth Berenguer, an associate professor of law at Campbell Law School, agreed that this looked like plagiarism, but New York University Law professor Christopher Sprigman said that Gorsuch's borrowing did not appear "mendacious" but rather "sloppy" and maybe "a little bit risky."

You can read more and compare Gorsuch's questionable passages to the apparent source at Politico.