Legal Ethics

Iowa Lawyer Reprimanded for Plagiarizing Bankruptcy Brief

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The Iowa Supreme Court has reprimanded a West Des Moines lawyer for filing a bankruptcy brief that was largely copied from a published law review article.

The court rejected a recommended suspension of up to six months for the lawyer, Peter Cannon, the Legal Profession Blog reports. The opinion found that “massive early verbatim copying of a published writing without attribution” does amount to an ethics violation. But the court said a reprimand was appropriate since Cannon had owned up to the copying, refunded fees charged for the brief and paid another lawyer to get up to speed on the case.

Cannon’s copying came to light after a bankruptcy judge noted that his brief seeking disqualification of a lawyer and a reply brief were “of unusually high quality,” the Iowa Supreme Court opinion says. The judge asked Cannon to certify that he was the author. Cannon responded by disclosing the copying to the court, his client and the bar association.

The judge found that Cannon had copied 17 out of 19 pages of legal analysis in the initial brief and a long citation string in the reply brief. He then ordered Cannon to refund fees charged for preparing the briefs and to return to law school for a legal ethics course.

In his disciplinary hearing, Cannon testified that he had conducted research and analyzed 32 bankers boxes of documents in preparation for the disqualification motion, but he became time-pressed when the briefs were due.

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