Gorsuch Supporters Blast ‘Last-Minute Smear Job’
As confirmation vote nears, Supreme Court nominee faces plagiarism allegations
Supporters of President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court dismissed plagiarism allegations as a “last-minute smear job” by opponents who desperately want to derail his confirmation.
BuzzFeed and Politico late Tuesday reported allegations that the writing structure of appeals-court Judge Neil Gorsuch’s 2006 book on assisted suicide and euthanasia bears similarity to a law review article without citing it. The judge’s defenders provided statements from academic scholars arguing that detailed technical references without citation do not amount to plagiarism.
“This is a last-minute smear job, plain and simple. If this is plagiarism, then half of this city’s journalists are guilty of plagiarism.”
“This is a last-minute smear job, plain and simple,” Trump judicial adviser Leonard Leo said in a prepared statement. “If this is plagiarism, then half of this city’s journalists are guilty of plagiarism. Some of the top scholars in the world — from Oxford, Princeton, Georgetown — have reviewed his work and concluded that these charges are absurd and false.”
Abigail Kuzma, a deputy attorney general in Indiana and the supposed victim of Gorsuch’s plagiarism, defended the judge.
“I have reviewed both passages and do not see an issue here, even though the language is similar,” she said in a prepared statement.
The Politico article quotes passages from Gosruch’s book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” and an Indiana Law Review Journal that Kuzma wrote. Both cited the same sources — a 1982 court ruling, a pediatrics textbook, and a 1983 newspaper article in the Bloomington Sunday Herald.
From Gorsuch’s book: “Down’s syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that involves both a certain amount of physical deformity and some degree of mental retardation.”
From Kuzma’s article: “‘Down’s syndrome’ or ‘Mongolism’ is an incurable chromosomal disorder that involves a certain amount of physical deformity and an unpredictable degree of mental retardation.”
From Gorsuch’s book: “Esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula means that the esophageal passage from the mouth to the stomach ends in a pouch, with an abnormal connection between the trachea and the esophagus.”
From Kuzma’s article: “Esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula indicates that the esophageal passage from the mouth to the stomach ends in a pouch, with an abnormal connection between the trachea and the esophagus.”
But Kuzma said in her statement that the writing cited by Politico is factual, not analytical.
“Given that these passages both describe the basic facts of the case, it would have been awkward and difficult for Judge Gorsuch to have used different language,” she stated.
Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College who was firmly in the NeverTrump camp during the 2016 election, told LifeZette that he believes the allegations against Gorsuch are exaggerated.
“It seems appropriately sourced to me,” said Nichols, who wrote “The Death of Expertise” earlier this year. “There’s only so many ways to rephrase ‘an esophagus.’ This certainly wouldn’t have been something I would have carried forward as a plagiarism case. It seems overblown to me.”
The advocacy group America Rising Squared characterized the attacks on Gorsuch as a political hit job and laid the blame on longtime Hillary Clinton supporter David Brock.
“After failing to lay a glove on Judge Gorsuch for the past two months, Democrats have now resorted to a false, desperate last-minute smear campaign cooked up by David Brock and his political cronies,” America Rising Squared Executive Director Brian Rogers said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that Democrats are waging the first partisan filibuster against a Supreme Court nominee in U.S. history, but their attempt to smear the name of this eminently qualified judge is shameful.”
America Rising Squared also offered testimonials from other academics.
John Finnis, who was the supervisor for Gorsuch’s doctoral thesis at Oxford University — on which the judge based the book — said in a statement, “In all four cases, Neil Gorsuch’s writing and citing was easily and well within the proper and accepted standards of scholarly research and writing in the field of study in which he was working.”
Robert George, general editor of New Forum Books — the Princeton University Press series that published Gorsuch's book — called the plagiarism allegations "a politically motivated effort to smear him" on the eve of his confirmation vote.
"Judge Gorsuch did not attempt to steal other people's intellectual property or pass off ideas or arguments taken from other writers as his own," stated George, one of America's leading conservative intellectuals. "In no case did he seek credit for insights or analysis that had been purloined. In short, not only is there no fire, there isn’t even any smoke."
Gorsuch's supporters also sought to discredit a Syracuse University professor quoted by Politico. Rebecca Moore Howard, who has written about academic integrity, told Politico, "I've never seen a college plagiarism code that this would not be in violation of."
Gorsuch defenders pointed to a series of tweets by Howard in 2008 indicating that she was a strong supporter of then Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.