Harvard Plagiarism Archive

"[T]he problem of writers . . . passing off the work of others as their own . . . [is] a phenomenon of some significance."
PROFESSOR LAURENCE TRIBE, e-mail to Dean Lawrence Velvel, 9/13/2004

"'I . . . delegated too much responsibility to others . . .,' [Prof. Charles Ogletree] said. 'I was negligent
in not overseeing more carefully the final product that carries my name.' * * * Ogletree told The Crimson that
he had not read the passage of Balkin’s book that appears in his own work. An assistant inserted the material
into a manuscript . . . . But Ogletree said he was closely involved in most of the drafting of the book . . . ."

STEVEN MARKS, "Ogletree Faces Discipline for Copying Text," The Harvard Crimson, 9/13/2004

"'Ronald Klain . . . then only a first-year student at Harvard law . . . spent most of his time with
Tribe working on Tribe's [1985] book God Save This Honorable Court,'" the Legal Times added in 1993.
* * * 'Many of Klain's friends and former colleagues say that he wrote large sections of the book . . . .'"

JOSEPH BOTTUM, "The Big Mahatma," The Weekly Standard, 10/4/2004

"[A]fter several plagiarism scandals broke over distinguished faculty members at Harvard's law school, including
Laurence Tribe,a group of students there set up a blog, Harvard Plagiarism Archive, to follow the University's
handling of the problem. They believe that the University, President Summers, and Dean Elena Kagan
essentially white-washed the scandal and are demanding further action.

PROF. RALPH LUKER, History News Network's "Cliopatria" blog,4/26/2005

“The Tribe and Ogletree matters have catalyzed bitter complaints from Harvard students that the university
employs a double standard. . . . The students have every right to be incensed over this gross double standard.
They in fact ought to raise hell peacefully about it: a constant barrage of letters, emails, statements . . . .”

DEAN LAWRENCE VELVEL, "Velvel on National Affairs" blog, 4/28/2005

"If you want to keep track of this story, I recommend the new Harvard Plagiarism Archive. . . . [I]t's pretty thorough."
TIMOTHY NOAH, Slate's "Chatterbox" blog,9/28/2004

"[Y]ou have done a wonderful service to all by operating the AuthorSkeptics website . . . a fine public service."
DEAN LAWRENCE VELVEL, author of "Velvel on National Affairs," e-mail to AuthorSkeptics, 4/19/2005

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Proof That Laurence Tribe Used Ghostwriters on the Second Edition of His Treatise

The June 28 National Review article by Robert VerBruggen (article here), which we've mentioned several times on this blog (principally here and here), basically put the nail in the coffin on Professor Laurence Tribe's efforts to deny what we and Dean Velvel have long contended based on sources who have contacted us with personal knowledge of Tribe's practices, who unfortunately we have not been at liberty to name:  that  Tribe has for years run a ghostwriting mill in which his books and articles (including his career-making constitutional law treatise) have been drafted for him by his current and former students, with Tribe serving mostly as a compiler of material written by others, not as an actual "author" of the works bearing his name.

The evidence marshaled by Mr. VerBruggen (and R.O. Denver) that Tribe used student ghostwriters even on his treatise dealt with the first and third editions of Tribe's treatise.

To summarize, as to the first edition, published in 1978.  It contained many passages copied straight out of the 1976 Law Review, something Tribe obviously would not have done, but which the students working on the Law Review might understandably have done).

As to the third edition, published in 2000.  One section on the Seventh Amendment contained hundreds of words copied straight out of a 1995 Supreme Court pro-plaintiff amicus brief which had been filed by eleven lawyers and law professors (not including Tribe), without any credit being given that brief.  The brief was funded by contingent-fee plaintiffs' lawyers with a huge stake in the then-pending $5 billion Exxon Valdez jury award for plaintiffs, an award which would be much easier to uphold in full if the expansive interpretation of the Seventh Amendment argument in the amicus brief was accepted.  Without any disclosure that the constitutional analysis in the brief had been developed in an advocacy context, and paid for by plaintiffs' lawyers, the material was copied into the third edition of Tribe's treatise by one of the plaintiffs' lawyers who had worked on the brief, who Tribe admitted he had let help "draft" his treatise.  This lawyer's pro-plaintiff bias was so extreme that in 2002 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit imposed $71,000 in sanctions against him for filing a plaintiffs' appellate brief which contained "a substantial number of outright falsehoods" in what was "indisputably an act of deliberate misrepresentation."  Nothing about how large chunks of an advocacy brief ended up in Tribe's treatise due to the work of an ethically challenged Tribe ghostwriter was known to readers until Mr. VerBruggen confronted Tribe about the hundreds of words copied from the Amar brief, and Tribe was forced to confront the latest malfunction in his ghostwriting mill. To the contrary:  both in the preface to his treatise and in the Seventh Amendment section itself, Tribe heralded his Seventh Amendment analysis as offering fresh, new scholarly insights.

In response to our recent coverage of the National Review article, we are delighted to report that a Harvard Law graduate who was on the Law Review in 1984, but who did not work for Tribe, has contacted us to confirm in the strongest terms that Tribe also used law students to ghostwrite the second edition of his  treatise, which was in the works in 1984 and was ultimately published in 1988.  Our source indicates that he knew several editors who were Tribe ghostwriters, both on his treatise and on other projects, and that it was common knowledge that these "research assistants" were actually writing up various sections of Tribe's publications, subject to Tribe's line editing and final approval. During this era, apparently, people typically did not have personal computers, so that Tribe's ghostwriters were frequently seen using the Law Review's "word-processing machines" (apparently specialized computers), often until late into the night, to draft up material for Tribe.

Our source is unwilling to go public on this matter, for fear that his career would thereby suffer (a common problem for us in pursuing the Harvard Law School plagiarism stories), but he provided us with evidence of the operation of Tribe's ghostwriting mill that in our view is even better:  a document memorializing that Tribe's ghostwriters had so much autonomy in drafting his publications that it would not be too much of a stretch to suggest that they were the actual authors of his publications (with Tribe generally functioning as an editor or compiler, not an actual author). 

The document is the May 4, 1984, issue of the "Harvard Law Revue," which we are told was a parody version of the Review put out each year poking fun at professors and editors. One of the articles, beginning on page 8, is a parody of an article Tribe actually published in the Review during the prior year, authored by one "Laurence H. Trite."  In the initial footnote, "Professor Trite" confesses that he has "a staff of four graduate assistants" in charge of keeping his thoughts on constitutional law straight.  In footnote 5, two of the editors who our source recalls being Tribe ghostwriters -- David Sklansky and Joan Greco -- are identified as the co-authors of the second edition of Tribe's treatise (with Tribe not listed as a co-author).  The cover, and all four pages of the "Trite" article, are embedded as thumbnails below.  Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.

In a parody context, a humorous exaggeration only works when the audience -- here, fellow Law Review editors -- immediately recognize that there is a large kernel of truth to what is being exaggerated for effect.  Thus this footnote works to confirm that we know from multiple sources who have disclosed Tribe's practices to various journalists, to Dean Velvel, and to us over the years:  that David Sklansky and Joan Greco, and the other Tribe ghostwriters who worked on the first, second, and third editions of his treatise, weren't just doing research, or editing, or cite-checking -- they were drafting sections of Tribe's scholarly works, subject of course to his final review and editing.  They were ghostwriters in Tribe's ghostwriting mill.

Of course, the "Revue" parody issue, standing alone, does not itself prove that Tribe used ghostwriters on the second edition of his treatise.  For that, we need a public statement by a Tribe ghostwriter that the work he or she did in fact involved drafting sections of Tribe's scholarly works.

That, it turns out, is exactly what we have here.  Joan Greco, after serving as a Tribe ghostwriter, went on to further burnish her already impressive credentials by clerking for Justice (then-Judge) Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She then moved on to a law firm, then to law teaching, and then to work on various media projects.  Here's how she described her work for Tribe, in the resume she posted on her AOL homepage (archived copy here):
"Researched and drafted sections of Constitutional Choices and the second edition of American Constitutional Law."  
Again, here are the relevant pages of the 1984 Harvard Law Revue. Enjoy!


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