Friday, April 08, 2011

Oh, the irony! Lawyer cribs from Wikipedia on ineffective assistance of counsel ; Judge Warns


OOOF! In US v. Sypher, from the Federal District Court, W. Dist., KY., Judge Charles R. Simpson, III, chides the lawyer for the defendant, in footnote 4, at page 6:

The court notes here that defense counsel appears to have cobbled much of his statement of the law governing ineffective assistance of counsel claims by cutting and pasting, without citation, from the Wikipedia web site. (snip) The court reminds counsel that such cutting and pasting, without attribution, is plagiarism. The court also brings to counsel’s attention Rule 8.4 of the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct, which states that it is professional misconduct for an attorney to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” SCR 3.130(c). (sic, SCR 3.130.8.4(c))(snip) Finally, the court reminds counsel that Wikipedia is not an acceptable source of legal authority in the United States District Courts.
It seems particularly ironic, not to say poignant, that the article from Wikipedia that was plagiarized was about ineffective assistance of counsel. Now, I suppose, they will have to crib one about plagiarism, where, conveniently, the current edit states that legally, the concept of plagiarism really doesn't exist.
Though plagiarism in some contexts is considered theft or stealing, from the point of view of the law, it is a non-existing concept. "Plagiarism" is not mentioned in any current statute, either criminal or civil.
(Wikipedia article on plagiarism, visited 4/8/11) Hmmm. Tell it to the judge. The attorney for the defendant in this case does not appear to be a law student in some under-supervised clinic, but a practitioner who took actual money from the defendant to represent her in her motion for a new trial on the claim that she had ineffective assistance of counsel at her trial for extortion. Now, considering what the judge wrote in his footnote, as well as a number of over-looked deadlines to file motions for extensions, one suspects that Ms. Sypher may be bringing another action for malpractice and the bar may be looking hard at this lawyer's actions in this case.

3 comments:

Marie S. Newman said...

I love the illustration, Betsy! It's a classic. And I am going to share your post with my Advanced Legal Research students as a good reminder of how not to practice law.

Betsy McKenzie said...

I should add here that I tip my hat to my wonderful Suffolk colleague, Susan Sweetgall, who gave me the link and heads up for this story!

Joshua Kricker said...

This article says that the concept of plagiarism is a "non-existent" concept. That's just not true. I'm accepting (solely for the purposes of this argument. I haven't done any independent research on the accuracy of this statement) their statement that it's not in any criminal or civil statute, but surely its recognized in the common law of the states and certainly encompassed within copyright protection for written materials.