Professor Admits Not Crediting Author

Times Staff Writer

Harvard professor Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law expert who often has argued before the Supreme Court, has admitted that he “failed to attribute” material from another scholar that appeared in his book.

Tribe, who could not be reached for comment, issued a statement Monday acknowledging that passages in his 1985 “God Save This Honorable Court” were borrowed from a book written in 1974 by Henry J. Abraham.

Tribe’s admission came after the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, posted an entry on its website last week noting similarities between Tribe’s book and “Justices and Presidents.”


In his statement, Tribe said, “I personally take full responsibility” for not crediting the material borrowed from Abraham.

He explained: “My well-meaning effort to write a book accessible to a lay audience through the omission of any footnotes or endnotes

Tribe said he “immediately” wrote a letter of apology to Abraham, a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. Abraham could not be reached for comment.

A statement from Harvard said the allegations were under investigation. “The university and the law school will consider this matter carefully and with the confidentiality we typically accord,” the statement said.

The accusations against Tribe -- who represented Vice President Al Gore in his lawsuit contesting the 2000 presidential election results -- came weeks after another Harvard law professor disclosed that he that had used sections of an author’s work without attribution.

Charles J. Ogletree blamed research assistants for inserting six paragraphs by another author into the draft of his recent book, “All Deliberate Speed.”


A Harvard investigation concluded that Ogletree committed “a serious scholarly transgression” but that the error was not intentional.

Preparing to teach a class late Tuesday, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said Tribe was being “targeted” by conservative factions in retaliation for decades of work on liberal causes.

“If the Standard were to do the same minuscule analysis of every word in the books written by the paragons of the right, they would find much the same thing,” he said.

On Monday, Abraham faxed a letter to the Boston Globe from Venice, where he was traveling, saying he had known about Tribe’s misappropriation of his work for years but had failed to take action.

“I felt betrayed at the time I became aware of Professor Tribe’s plagiarism, and I still feel that way,” Abraham wrote.