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Harvard Professor Admits Lifting Passage

Associated Press
September 8, 2004

A recent book by Harvard Law School professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr. includes a six-paragraph passage lifted almost directly from another author's work, Ogletree and the school acknowledged.

Ogletree said the inclusion of the passage from a book by Yale Law School professor Jack M. Balkin was the result of editing mistakes in drafts of his book "All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education," published in April, The Boston Globe reported Thursday.

"I made a serious mistake during the editorial process of completing this book, and delegated too much responsibility to others during the final editing process," Ogletree wrote in a statement posted on the law school Web site last week.

Ogletree said that he will face discipline from Harvard, but refused to specify the nature of the discipline. Law school spokesman Mike Armini said it was school policy not to discuss discipline. Phone messages seeking comment from Dean Elena Kagan and Balkin were not returned Thursday.

The passage came from Balkin's 2001 book, "What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said." Ogletree said that Kagan and Balkin both received anonymous letters about the passage.

Balkin called Ogletree to alert him and Ogletree said he immediately investigated. Kagan asked former Harvard president Derek Bok and former law school dean Robert C. Clark to investigate.

Kagan concluded that the case was "a serious scholarly transgression," Armini said. But Bok stressed that there was no evidence the borrowing was deliberate.

The problem came when one research assistant inserted the quotation from Balkin in a draft of the book, believing that another assistant would review and summarize it. The closing quotation mark was inadvertently dropped, according to Ogletree.

A second assistant, under deadline pressure, deleted the attribution to Balkin. Ogletree reviewed the draft, but did not recognize that he had not written the passage, he said. The six paragraphs are identical except for a half-dozen changed words.

"There is no one to blame but me," Ogletree said.

Ogletree, whose background is in race and criminal justice, represented Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. He has written numerous books and was named by The National Law Journal as one of its "100 most Influential Lawyers in America."