Thursday, April 16, 2009

Profs sue over sham treatise has an article here about two law professors suing West publishing company for putting their names on a supplement that they said was a) not necessary and b) so poorly researched that it will harm their reputations.

An ugly dispute has erupted between West Publishing and two law professors who claim they were falsely identified as the authors of an annual supplement to a treatise on Pennsylvania criminal law even though they had nothing to do with writing it.

In a federal lawsuit, professors David Rudovsky of the University of Pennsylvania and Leonard Sosnov of Widener Law School claim that the December 2008 supplement, or "pocket part," to their book, "Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure -- Law, Commentary and Forms," was so poorly researched that it will harm their reputations if allowed to remain on library shelves.

In an injunction hearing Tuesday, the professors' lawyer, Richard L. Bazelon of Bazelon Less & Feldman, argued that West should be ordered to notify all recipients of the supplement that Rudovsky and Sosnov were not the authors and that any unhappy customers may demand a refund.

Bazelon argued that the supplement was a "sham" that offered almost nothing new to subscribers and that users of the book would mistakenly connect the poor quality to Rudovsky and Sosnov.

Over the two decades since the treatise was written, Bazelon said, the professors have routinely added about 150 new cases each year in annual updates. But the supplement published in December 2008, he said, added just three new cases and failed to take note of any of the cases that had been reversed in the past year by the state Supreme Court.

But a lawyer for West insisted that although West was not "proud" of the first version of the supplement, it has recently mailed out a new version that cures those defects and includes a revised cover page that clearly explains that Rudovsky and Sosnov ended their work on the updates in 2007.

Attorney James Rittinger of Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke in New York conceded that the December 2008 version of the supplement "didn't measure up to what our standards are," but also said that it "was not a sham."

Rittinger urged Senior U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam to reject the injunction request, saying West has already done everything the professors are demanding and that an injunction is "extraordinary" relief.

The professors have no valid claims to press, Rittinger argued, because their agreements with West clearly provide that a supplement to their book may be prepared by others.
The article goes on (it's pretty hot stuff!) about the judge taking West's lawyer to task for his tone in an earlier case, and seeming to take the same snide tone in this case -- WOW! At any rate, as a librarian who has often wondered about those supplements, it's interesting to watch from the sidelines as even the authors fall out with the publishers over their practices! Now, I have to go see if we have processed the damn' thing!

Tip of the OOTJ hat to Linda Ryan at St. John's, who posted this to a listserve!

1 comment:

Marie S. Newman said...

This confirms what I have long suspected about supplements--many, although not all, contain very little new information. I'm rooting for the authors.