Thursday, July 10, 2008

Professor O'Neill's Judicial Nomination Faces A New Hurdle

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that my Criminal Law prof had just been nominated to be a judge on the Federal District Court. I was both shocked and saddened to read news that he is now getting caught up in charges of plagiarism:
In last Friday’s NYT, Adam Liptak detailed the plagiarism controversy surrounding Michael E. O’Neill, whom President Bush nominated for a seat on the Federal District Court last month. In 2007, the Supreme Court Economic Review issued a retraction of an article by O’Neill. “Substantial portions” of the article, the editors wrote, were “appropriated without attribution” from a book review by another law professor. In addition, Liptak reported, at least four articles by O’Neill in other publications contain passages that appear to have been lifted from other scholars’ works without quotation marks or attribution.

But according to a story in today’s WaPo, O’Neill (BYU, Yale Law) said yesterday that he will not withdraw his nomination because he fully disclosed the controversy to both White House officials and the FBI. “It wasn’t intentional. It was my fault. It was my mistake, and I have to own up to it.”

O’Neill’s former boss, Sen. Arlen Specter, said he still supports O’Neill, who used to be Specter’s top aide, for the job, even after the NYT report. “I think on the merits, Michael O’Neill ought to be confirmed,” he said. “You have a mistake which ought not negate an extraordinary record of public service.”

O’Neill, now a George Mason law prof, was a Scotus clerk to Clarence Thomas and a clerk to David B. Sentelle, now chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. More recently, helped win Supreme court confirmation for justices Roberts and Alito. (O’Neill surrendered his tenure at George Mason after the dust-up over the Supreme Court Economic Review article.)

According to the WaPo, O’Neill pointed to good relations he had fostered with lawmakers during two years in the Senate. “I am a creature of the Senate,” he said. “If you believe this was inadvertent, and it was fairly insignificant, is it something to kill somebody’s career for?”

Criminal Law has been by far my favorite law course so far. From what I know of Professor O'Neill, I cannot imagine this was anything other than a few unintentional mistakes. While this is certainly a serious issue, I would hate to see his judicial career stymied by all of this. I wish Professor O'Neill well and sincerely hope this doesn't derail his judicial nominations or affect his ability to regain tenure at GMU. He is in my thoughts and prayers.

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