“Plagiarism is unacceptable in any grammar school, college, or law school, and even in politics. It is   
                    wholly intolerable 
in the practice of law.”

         n  DeWilde vs. Gannett Publishing, 797 F. Supp. 55, 56 (D. Maine, 1992)

CHICAGO (jGLi) – Plagiarism is to writers as breaking the vow of celibacy is to priests, Catholic priests, that is.

The moment a writer commits plagiarism, he is bidding goodbye to his writing profession as his credibility has sunk below zero.

I, myself, had been a victim of plagiarism a number of times. Only one had so far paid the “price” when I threatened to sue him for copyright violations. The plagiarist apologized in bended knees and paid the attorney’s fees for copyright violations. That’s why, I advise my friends in the publishing and broadcast media to buy “libel and anti-tort” insurance coverage to mitigate payment for damage suits, arising from libelous and plagiarized articles by their writers and contributors.

And that’s why I feel for the foreign authors, whose works were lifted freely by Philippine Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Mariano del Castillo and incorporated them in his decision without citing the authors as the source of his opinion and without asking the authors’ permission to use their works.

Unfortunately, ten of the 15 Supreme Court Justices voted to absolve Justice Castillo of plagiarism because “his researcher had no ‘malicious intent’” when the researcher accidentally deleted the footnotes attributing to the three foreign sources.

Even my friends Down Under led by Jaime K. Pimentel of the Filipino Press Group Sydney described the decision of the Supreme Court of the Philippines as effectively legalizing “plagiarism, an act so basically shameless to civilized society that even school children would recognize it as cheating.”

Fortunately for the victims of plagiarists, this reasoning of the Philippine Supreme Court was soundly rejected by the Hearing Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which “regarded as unworthy of belief” respondent Anthony Lamberis’ “explanation that his plagiarism was the result of academic laziness and did not reflect an intentional effort to deceive his thesis examiners” in In re Lamberis, 443 N.E.2d 549, 550 (Ill.1982) that was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court, according to Dr. Ronald B. Standler, a lawyer specializing in copyright laws.




Lamberis, an attorney in Illinois, was enrolled in classes in an LL.M. program in Law at Northwestern University in Chicago’s suburb of Evanston, Illinois. In 1977, he submitted a thesis that was rejected as unsatisfactory. In 1978, he submitted a 93-page thesis, of which 47 pages were “substantially verbatim” from two sources that Lamberis did not cite.

His professors detected the plagiarism in June 1979. Lamberis attempted to resign from the law school. But Northwestern University expelled him, and then reported him to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

The Hearing Board found Lamberis’ plagiarism as a “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” violating the Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility. Lamberis’ “deception is compounded by his lack of candor in claiming that his efforts were not intentional effort to deceive. We cannot accept an assertion that would require that we find such naiveté or a lack of intelligence on his part.”




In punishing Lamberis, the Illinois Supreme Court says, in cases of this type, fairness and justice require that discipline be imposed only “to protect members of the public, to maintain the integrity of the legal profession and to safeguard the administration of justice from reproach.” It added “his deceitful conduct was to obtain a valuable consideration, an advanced law degree that would have undoubtedly improved his prospects for employment, reputation and advancement in the legal profession.”

While two dissenting justices believed a suspension for three months was appropriate for Lamberis, the Disciplinary Review Board recommended a suspension from the practice of law for six months. The Administrator of the Disciplinary Program recommended disbarment of Lamberis. In the end, the Illinois Supreme Court censured Lamberis.

I believe the operative words, lack ‘malicious intent,’ as a way to clear Justice Castillo, are no different from Lamberis’ “lack of candor in claiming that his efforts were not intentional effort to deceive,” according to the Illinois Supreme Court.

For me, the Philippine Supreme Court should reverse itself and impose either censure, suspension or disbarment on Justice Castillo to send a message to the world that it considers plagiarism a despicable act.

And even if the Philippine Supreme Court imposes penalty on Justice Castillo, it does not preclude the authors to sue Justice Castillo in a civil court for copyright violation and for Justice Castillo to be tried in criminal court on charges of fraud.

While we are in this topic, Dr. Standler stresses that in order to avoid charges of plagiarism, any quotations, however small, must be placed in quotation marks or clearly indented beyond the regular margin. Any quotation must be accompanied (either within the text or in a footnote) by a precise indication of the source –identifying the author, title, place and date of publication (where relevant), and page numbers. Any sentence or phrase, which is not the original work of the writer, must be acknowledged.

Also, any material, which is paraphrased or summarized, must also be specifically acknowledged in a footnote or in the text. A thorough rewording or rearrangement of an author’s text does not relieve one of this responsibility.

And any idea or fact, which is borrowed, should be specifically acknowledged in a footnote or in the text, even if the idea or fact has been further elaborated by others. However, some ideas, facts, formulae, and other kinds of information, which are widely known and considered to be in the “public domain” of common knowledge do not always require citation.

The deliberate use of any “outside source” without proper acknowledgment is plagiarism. “Outside source” means any work, published or unpublished, by any person other than the writer. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)