Trials & Litigation

Harvard law grad loses defamation suit over plagiarism rebuke on transcript

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A Harvard Law School graduate says she lost out on BigLaw work because an unfair reprimand claiming she plagiarized a law review article was included on her transcript.

But a federal judge saw the matter differently, granting a summary judgment Dec. 30 to Harvard and other defendants in the defamation and breach-of-contract case brought by Megon Walker, the National Law Journal (sub. req.) reports.

The 2009 law graduate “committed plagiarism within the meaning of Harvard’s Student Handbook,” said Judge Rya Zobel in a written opinion in the District of Massachusetts case. Thus because “the publications of fact she alleges libelous are true, … she cannot recover.”

Walker had contended that her article didn’t qualify as a “submission” covered by the handbook because it was in draft form. She said she told student editors of the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, when she gave it to them, that the article was incomplete due to a problem with her computer. Although she provided a list of her sources and sought to revise the article to include attribution, the editors refused, she said.

Walker sued the editors as well as the law school and two administrators, alleging they had misrepresented to the school what she did and didn’t explain about the list of sources when they reported her for plagiarism.

She also argued that Harvard didn’t follow its own required process in dealing with the plagiarism matter.

In addition to an award of damages, Walker had sought to have the reprimand for plagiarism removed from her transcript.

Hat tip: Above the Law.

Related coverage: “Suit by Jobless Harvard Law Grad Says False Plagiarism Accusation Caused BigLaw Disinterest”

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