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Nobody is responsible for their own work anymore

By September 20, 2004current affairs

Lawrence Velvel, Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, has some thoughts that I completely agree with:

“If memory serves, Justice Brandeis once said that the Supreme Court was respected because it was the last place in Washington where people did their own work. Well, they haven’t done their own work at the Supreme Court either for the last 50 years or so. The Justices’ major item of work — their opinions — are drafted by others, by clerks whose names are publicly unknown.”

These thoughts are given in the context of discussing the recent plagiarism charge against one of Harvard Law School’s celebrity law professors. Charles Ogletree explained that the plagiarism was not intentional, but was a by-product of his not closely supervising his assistants. Hmmmm, okay.

So what lesson can we take away from the Ogletree affair and its ilk? Well, one thing is that since plagiarism is an intent crime you can easily avoid responsibility. First, hire some assistants and try to guide them (if you can make the time). If you don’t have time to guide them, and you are charged with plagiarism you can always defend yourself by pleading ‘negligent supervision.’ Especially if you are a superstar. No one expects superstars to do their own work anymore. And apparently no one even expects them to closely supervise, or even train, the underlings who do it for them.

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