The Anti-Hero of Harvard Law School: A Post-Modern “Paper Chase”

Update (Sept. 28, 10 p.m.):  Welcome Legal Insurrection readers!  We appreciate Professor Jacobson linking to us, and all of his past assistance against the Harvard Law School administration’s efforts to censor our blog (our blog was taken down twice based on bogus DMCA claims — see here, here, and here).

Poll update (for details, see the bottom of this post):  83% of those voting say that yes, Laurence Tribe is the “Anti-Kingsfield” of Harvard Law School — “the worst example of a law school professor today.”  19% say he’s not the “Anti-Kingsfield,” because at least one other Harvard Law professor is even worse.  0% answer that “no current Harvard Law professor is a bad example of a law school professor today. ”

Update # 2 (Sept. 29, 12:45 p.m.):  It’s now 17 hours since our mini-“Instalaunch” via Legal Insurrection, and so far 42 people have participated in our poll.  The overwhelming majority — 81% — have voted Tribe “the worst example of a law school professor today.”  17% pick another Harvard Law professor as the worst example.  We’ve archived a screenshot here. Our most recent poll screenshot will always appear at the very bottom of the updates to this post.  Please vote!

Update # 3 (Oct. 2, 10:15 p.m.):  Welcome Power Line readers!  Hundreds of you have read this post since Scott Johnson mentioned it on September 30 in his “Annals of Political Correctness” post.  We appreciate his mentioning our poll and his humorous update:  “Results aren’t final, but — spoiler warning — Laurence Tribe has a big lead.”  Indeed, Tribe has been steadily building his lead.  Tonight, four days into the voting, a staggering 90% of those responding identify Tribe, not some other Harvard Law professor, as “the worst example of a law school professor today.”  Archived screenshot here.

* * *

At Harvard Law Unbound we’re rather fond of posters, so we keep an eye out for  interesting ones.  Early last week we noticed this one stuck up all over the Law School, featuring actor John Houseman in the role of Professor Charles W. Kingsfield Jr., the hero — the exemplar of excellence and integrity — of the fictional Harvard Law School depicted in “The Paper Chase.”It is altogether fitting and proper that the real Harvard Law School should commemorate the 40th anniversary of “The Paper Chase” with a discussion between the dean and its author, Harvard Law graduate John Jay Osborne Jr.

Still, sparked by our concern that important issues of corruption and conflict of  interest at Harvard Law School continue to be ignored by its administrators and faculty, we mark this occasion by asking:  Shouldn’t we also be having a discussion about the anti-hero of the real Harvard Law School – its “Anti-Kingsfield”?  That would be Professor Laurence H. Tribe.

In 2010, PJ Media featured a perhaps-not-entirely-hypothetical discussion among three high-profile law professors about who is  the “bad example of a law school professor today,” the “Anti-Kingsfield,” so to speak.  One remarked that a law professor who “has research assistants writing all his articles,” well, he “would be the villain” in “a post-modern version of ‘The Paper Chase’ . . . from the standpoint of the research assistant who’s writing the treatise and, you know, slips in plagiarized bits to try to get his boss in trouble.”

Here’s the video (h/t AuthorSkeptics):

There’s abundant evidence that this description –of  a law professor who farms out his scholarly writing to students, some of whom do commit plagiarism and get him in trouble — perfectly fits Professor Tribe, who we hereby nominate as the Anti-Kingsfield of Harvard Law School, the anti-hero in a post-modern “Paper Chase.”

Our main source on this is the “Harvard Plagiarism Archive,” a blog started in 2004 by a group of Harvard Law students (including at least one student of Tribe’s, interestingly) when Tribe first came under fire for his scholarly practices.  They call themselves the “AuthorSkeptics,” as their blog is focused not just on Tribe, but on other Harvard authors who have fallen under scrutiny.  Having reviewed some of the highlights on that blog (we cannot personally vouch for the accuracy of everything, but it seems carefully researched, and many prominent law professors and journalists have vouched for it, as documented in various posts on the blog), we believe that Professor Tribe is, indeed, the “Anti-Kingsfield” of the real Harvard Law School – its exemplar of how one might try to create a fraudulent illusion of scholarly productivity by farming out one’s research and writing work to student ghostwriters, at least until the students get caught plagiarizing from real scholars.

For those with limited time who want the most succinct overview, on the “AuthorSkeptics” blog there’s a helpful written summary summary here of a series of YouTube videos laying out the chronology of the Harvard plagiarism scandals, which begins with this video:

To spark interest in an examination of the scholarly practices of our very own Anti-Kingsfield, and of others affiliated with Harvard as examined in detail on the “AuthorSkeptics” blog, today we launch our fifth poster campaign, a two-poster set that contrasts the virtues of the fictional Kingsfield with the vices (at least some of them) of the unfortunately all-too-real Anti-Kingsfield.

At the bottom we include a poll, which we hope you’ll participate in, to answer this question:  Is Professor Tribe most appropriately regarded as the Anti-Kingsfield of Harvard Law School?  Yes or no — and if no, why?

Professor Tribe has never been punished for his rampant use of student ghostwriters since the 1970s despite the massive evidence that has accumulated since 2004 of his practices.  If the administration and faculty of Harvard Law School truly wish to honor the quest for intellectual excellence reflected in “The Paper Chase,” they will launch a proper investigation of Professor Tribe, and all other faculty members accused of scholarly misconduct (as exhaustively examined by AuthorSkeptics, Dean Lawrence Velvel, Joseph Bottum, Robert VerBruggen, and others covering these matters), and will issue a detailed public report on their findings concerning the very specific charges of scholarly misconduct that have been brought.

Here is our first poster, summarizing some of the virtues of Professor Kingsfield, the hero of “The Paper Chase”:

Here is our second poster, summarizing some of the vices of Professor Laurence Tribe:

And here finally is our poll.  Please vote and help us resolve, as Harvard Law School marks the 40th anniversary of “The Paper Chase,” whether Professor Laurence H. Tribe is indeed the Anti-Kingsfield of Harvard Law School — the anti-hero of a post-modern “Paper Chase.”

Is Professor Laurence Tribe the Anti-Kingsfield of Harvard Law School?
Yes, Tribe is the worst example of a law school professor today.
No, at least one other Harvard Law professor is a worse example of a law professor today.
No, no current Harvard Law professor is a bad example of a law school professor today. free polls 

To vote, just click here.

Update (Sept. 28, 10 p.m.):  Shortly after we made this post about 4 p.m. today, it occurred to us there was a link between this post and our last one, addressing Professor Elizabeth Warren, which in a shameless bid for relevance we briefly pointed out to Professor William Jacobson — who, of course, for months has made major contributions delving into  Professor Warren’s biography.  As noted at the top of this post, Professor Jacobson thought the connection worthy of mention.  For interested readers, here is the body of the more elaborate e-mail we sent this evening to a wide array of bloggers, discussing in more detail Professor Tribe’s history of coming to the defense of ethically challenged members of the Harvard community:

For those closely following Elizabeth Warren (another subject of our blog), in an odd development which connects this poster campaign to our September 5 “Most Dishonest Injun” poster campaign, our selection for the “Anti-Kingsfield” (Professor Tribe) is currently serving as a key character witness for our selection for the “# 1 Most Dishonest Injun” (Professor Warren) against the charges that Warren has been unlawfully practicing law without a license:

One ethically challenged member of the Harvard community defending another is hardly novel. Professor  Tribe also served as a character witness for Doris Kearns Goodwin (here and here) and Charles Ogletree (here) in their defense against ghostwriting/plagiarism charges — that is, until Tribe himself fell under multiple waves of ghostwriting/plagiarism charges (summarized here), after which he quieted down considerably about such things.

Why is it that only Harvard law professors seem to keep getting mired in ethical scandals — rarely if ever Yale or Stanford law professors, or even professors at the more lowly law schools?  Well, at least our professors hang together while under fire!  As Ramesh Ponnuru has observed: “They’re quite a band of brothers there in Cambridge.”


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1 Response to The Anti-Hero of Harvard Law School: A Post-Modern “Paper Chase”

  1. Pingback: » Mass Lawyers Weekly readers want investigation of Elizabeth Warren license problem - Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion

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