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Green Party Member Accuses Gorsuch of Academic Violations

Professor once lamented that plagiarism charges cannot be separated from rape metaphors

Syracuse University professor Rebecca Moore Howard / Twitter
• April 5, 2017 2:35 pm

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A college professor who accused Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch of academic malfeasance is a Green Party member who has written extensively about the connection between plagiarism and rape.

On Tuesday evening, Buzzfeed published a report purportedly showing that Gorsuch copied a 1983 law review article in his 2006 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. The allegations referred to two paragraphs recounting the facts of a 1982 Indiana law passed after parents prevented their handicapped children from receiving medical care that led to their deaths.

The White House has called the allegations a "smear" intended to derail Gorsuch's nomination, which is scheduled to head to the Senate floor—and a likely Democratic filibuster—on Friday.

The author of the article Gorsuch is accused of copying also has spoken out, saying she does not consider the paragraphs to be plagiarism.

"I have reviewed both passages and do not see an issue here, even though the language is similar," author Abigail Lawlis Kuzma said in a statement. "These passages are factual, not analytical in nature, framing both the technical legal and medical circumstances of the ‘Baby/Infant Doe' case that occurred in 1982. 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."

Other academics told media outlets they disagree with the author's assessment. Syracuse University professor Rebecca Moore Howard told Politico that the similar language constituted "a violation of academic ethics."

"Each of the individual incidents constitutes a violation of academic ethics. I've never seen a college plagiarism code that this would not be in violation of," Howard said.

Politico noted that Howard "has written extensively on the issue" of plagiarism. Some of her work on that issue has caused controversy.

Howard compared plagiarism to rape in a 2000 article, outlining how plagiarism reinforces "prejudices of gender and sexual preference." The article, "Sexuality, Textuality: The Cultural Work of Plagiarism," argues that plagiarism cannot be separated from sexual metaphors and that discourse on plagiarism excludes women.

"The outrage of plagiarism, therefore, is that the text belongs to the proprietary—male—author. That proprietary author is male: In the Western tradition, women do not own the product of their labor and thus cannot, in the Lockean sense, be authors. Nor, in the terms of traditional heterosexuality, can they be rapists and hence not plagiarists. All this prepares the ground for excluding them entirely from the category of ‘writer,'" she said. "Plagiarism amounts to one man's raping another man's female property. The occupation of both poles effectively eliminates women from any consideration as authors."

Howard, who did not respond to a request for comment, has used her expertise in academic malfeasance to fight the Trump administration. After First Lady Melania Trump, a woman, was caught plagiarizing Michelle Obama, another woman, at the Republican National Convention, Howard took to Twitter to call "the current Trump woman" an "intellectual fraud."

Howard was a registered Democratic voter from 1986 and 2010 and voted in 2016 as a registered member of the Green Party, according to New York voting records. She is outspoken about politics on social media, tweeting support for President Barack Obama and repeating a variation of the "nevertheless, she persisted" slogan used by fans of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

The plagiarism allegations have done little to hurt Gorsuch's nomination as the Senate prepares for the first Supreme Court filibuster in history. Trump's top Supreme Court adviser Leonard Leo dismissed the scandal in a Tuesday evening statement.

"This is a last minute smear job, plain and simple," he said. "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."