Tribe's plagarism should be considered in context

To the editors:

We are a group of Professor Laurence H. Tribe’s current and recent students, research assistants, and teaching assistants. In our view, the Crimson’s recent coverage of the allegation that Professor Tribe in a 1985 book inadvertently failed to give proper attribution to a book by Professor Henry Abraham simultaneously (News, “Prof Admits to Misusing Source,” Sept. 27) overstates the seriousness of that allegation and fails to acknowledge Professor Tribe’s deserved reputation as a scholar.

As you may know, a recent survey of 13,000 Harvard Law School alumni found that Professor Tribe is the most admired member of the school’s faculty, past or present. When Tribe was just 35 years old, Time Magazine included him in a list of the ten most outstanding law professors in the United States. He has helped author the constitutions of several emerging democracies, including South Africa, Russia, and the Czech Republic. He has argued more than 35 cases before the Supreme Court, and he has won most of them. His masterful treatise, American Constitutional Law, justly dominates the field and is cited far more than any other text of its kind.

Although Professor Tribe’s book, God Save this Honorable Court, acknowledges the work of Professor Abraham as the leading contribution to the field, it does not specifically attribute some language in a few isolated sentences. Professor Tribe has sincerely apologized, and that prompt acknowledgment should be the end of the matter. Because the concern has not been raised in the many years since the book went out of print, there is nothing more that Professor Tribe can do.

Such an isolated error—emerging from the gloaming after two decades—should not, and will not, tarnish the reputation of America’s leading and most creative constitutional scholar. The country and the legal profession should be as proud and grateful as we are that Professor Tribe continues to work as hard and conscientiously as he has for the past forty years.




October 14

This letter was co-authored by Daniel Richenthal, Jeffrey Jamison, Adam Cedarbaum ‘97 and Jessica Ring Amunson.

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