Month: December 2019

In Offense, Against Plagiarism

Brian Frye and Agnes Callard both recently posted well-articulated essays defending plagiarism (Callard only “sort of” defends plagiarism).  My visceral response to both of these essays was “NO!”  Their essays have anticipated my reaction as motivated by a desire for the academic currency of accolades, recognition, gratitude, and perhaps some form of immortality.  Like any longstanding, largely accepted moral norm, the norm against plagiarism should be periodically reconsidered.

I would like to briefly add to this reconsideration by listing a few less obvious reasons for the norm.  I do not discuss the obvious (and, to me, extremely compelling) reason that plagiarism is dishonest, because without a norm against plagiarism, plagiarism would not be dishonest.  In that case, there would be no duty to disclose and no moral wrong in taking credit for one’s work.  Please feel free to add to my list — and DO cite to this blog if you build upon my reasons.

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Can the House Judiciary Committee Force Legal Experts to Reveal Who They Voted For?

At the first hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry, House Judiciary Committee Member Tom McClintock asked law professors Pamela Karlan, Noah Feldman, and Michael Gerhardt to raise their hands if they voted for President Trump.  Professor Karlan, who expertly taught my constitutional litigation class, responded that she has a right to cast a secret ballot.  House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler then told the three legal scholars that they did not have to answer, but Rep. McClintock could still press the question.  Professor Feldman rightly noted that “not raising our hands is not an indication of an answer.”

Professor Karlan appeared to be alluding to a First Amendment right not to disclose her 2016 Presidential vote, in conjunction with a fundamental right to unfettered access to voting.  If experts must disclose their votes as a condition of offering testimony before Congress, this may compromise either their ability to vote freely or their desire to give their opinions on important matters.  Arguably, however, the three legal scholars’ views on impeachment are undermined by their antipathy towards President Trump, rendering their votes relevant to their Congressional testimony.  Federal law prohibits those who voluntarily appear before Congress to refuse to answer questions pertinent to the Congressional inquiry at issue.  So, is there some sort of right not to disclose one’s vote during Congressional testimony in which one’s vote is arguably relevant to the proceedings?  Unlike many areas of First Amendment law, the answer to this question relies on a balancing test that accounts for both the importance of the information to a legitimate Congress’s inquiry and the private interests at stake.

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