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Harvard Law School reprimands
Prof. Laurence Tribe for uncredited passages

By Associated Press
Thursday, April 14, 2005 -

BOSTON - Harvard University has reproached but declined to punish constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe after concluding he committed ``a serious lapse'' in failing to properly credit another author's work in a book published two decades ago.

      Last fall, the Weekly Standard magazine pointed out similarities, including one exact 19-word passage, between Tribe's 1985 book ``God Save This Honorable Court'' and a 1974 book ``Justices and Presidents'' by Henry J. Abraham, now an emeritus professor at the University of Virginia.

      Tribe, who is well known in legal circles and represented Al Gore in the 2000 Florida election dispute, acknowledged the mistake and apologized publicly and in a letter to Abraham. His book did not have footnotes but mentioned Abraham's in a bibliographic note.

      Harvard appointed three scholars to investigate, including former president Derek Bok. In a statement released Thursday, President Lawrence Summers and Law School Dean Elena Kagan said they had received the investigators' report and concluded the error was ``the product of inadvertence rather than intentionality'' and ``related more to matters of phrasing than to fundamental ideas.''

      Nonetheless, the statement said the error was ``a significant lapse in proper academic practice'' and ``a matter of serious concern in the academic community.''

      ``We have conveyed these conclusions and concerns to Professor Tribe, and now consider the matter closed,'' the statement said.

       It was not entirely clear from the university announcement whether Tribe received any further sanction, and the university declined to comment further. But Tribe's office issued a statement saying ``there was no sanction or reprimand beyond the (university's) statement.''

       Tribe issued a separate statement reiterating his apology.

      ``I am gratified that the university's inquiry found no basis for accusations of dishonesty or of intellectual theft,'' he said.

      A phone message seeking comment from Abraham was not immediately returned.

      The accusations against Tribe were part of a string of allegations of sloppy attribution against prominent scholars, including Tribe's Harvard colleague Charles J. Ogletree, who lifted a six-paragraph passage almost directly from another work. Ogletree attributed the mistake to assistants but apologized, and a Harvard investigation found no deliberate wrongdoing.