Neil Gorsuch accused of plagiarizing from a 1984 law article in his 2006 book

Gorsuch's defenders say that the allegations are baseless, since he was simply repeating facts

By Matthew Rozsa
April 5, 2017 3:45PM (UTC)
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(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)

Even as Senate Republicans mull over using the nuclear option to force Neil Gorsuch's confirmation to the Supreme Court, a new controversy is arising over alleged plagiarism in one of Gorsuch's books.

In his 2006 book "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia," there is a brief section that has language and sourcing which seems to mirror that of a 1984 journal article by Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, according to BuzzFeed, which cites multiple instances in which detailed medical language from Kuzma's article appears with only minor alterations in Gorsuch's book. For example, the introduction of Gorsuch's book read:


"Baby Doe" (a pseudonym used to protect the family’s privacy) was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on April 9, 1982, with two congenital anomalies, Down’s syndrome and esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula.

Kuzma's article contained this sentence:

Infant Doe was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on April 9, 1982 with two congenital anomalies, Down's syndrome and esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula.

In addition to the several instances involving Kuzma's article, BuzzFeed also found one other case summary from the first half of Gorsuch's book that "appears to have repeated some language from an uncredited law review article, although less extensively," quotes from a foreign-law decision that it claims are "reprinted directly without proper attribution," and reports that he seems to reuse language from a medical journal and an Italian legal decision.

Emeritus Professor John Finnis of Oxford University, who supervised Gorsuch's dissertation, told BuzzFeed in a statement that "in my opinion, none of the allegations has any substance or justification. In all the instances mentioned, 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 and I work."


Ed Whelan of the conservative National Review has denounced the plagiarism accusations as "bastardized charges," arguing that "multiple academics who have reviewed the charges — including one of Gorsuch’s imagined victims — have rejected those claims, which, they explain, rest on a misunderstanding of academic citation standards and don’t involve misappropriation of anyone’s ideas, theories, or creative expressions."

Kuzma herself has issued a statement saying that she "reviewed both passages and do not see an issue here, even though the language is similar. 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."

Plagiarism accusations aside, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is confident that he has enough votes to employ the "nuclear option" to prevent a Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch's confirmation.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Neil Gorsuch Plagiarism Supreme Court