Faculty

Here's What Academics Are Saying About Neil Gorsuch's Alleged Plagiarism

April 05, 2017

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
The allegations against Neil Gorsuch (above) center on wording in his 2006 book about euthanasia.

As Neil Gorsuch awaits a confirmation vote for a seat on the Supreme Court, BuzzFeed News and Politico report that the federal appellate judge appeared to “copy” or “borrow” from other writers in his written works. 

Both the BuzzFeed and Politico reports touch on a passage in which Mr. Gorsuch, in his 2006 book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, appears to have lifted language without attribution from a 1984 Indiana Law Journal article.

Politico reported that a spokesman from the White House called the new findings “a false attack” and a “last-second smear of Judge Gorsuch.”

Another President Trump nominee, Monica Crowley, withdrew earlier this year from consideration as a spokeswoman at the National Security Council after facing plagiarism allegations.

In one passage, Mr. Gorsuch used the same language as the law-journal article to describe a medical procedure, specifically, the sentence fragment “pass to the lungs instead of the stomach, eventually resulting in suffocation unless surgery is performed to correct the malformation.”

Other pieces of language vary slightly between the book and the law journal, and other similarities are easily spotted in sections highlighted by the news outlets.

Politico reported that the White House offered statements from academics who said that while Mr. Gorsuch may have lifted language, he did not steal ideas or arguments. But some academics interviewed by Politico called Mr. Gorsuch’s actions plagiarism.

Academics on Twitter weighed in:

In response, a Harvard University law professor, Noah Feldman, wrote a column for Bloomberg titled “Gorsuch’s Plagiarism Is Worthy of Embarrassment,” in which he writes, “I can’t say it any more clearly this: He plagiarized, but the plagiarism was minor.”

And a New York University law professor, Christopher Sprigman, took to Twitter to dismiss the claims: 

Chris Quintana is a breaking-news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @cquintanadc or email him at chris.quintana@chronicle.com.