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Fairness and justice require that discipline be imposed only to protect members of the public, to maintain the integrity of the legal profession, and to safeguard the administration of justice from reproach. However, while uniformity in attorney discipline is desirable, every case must be considered on its own merits.
In 1970, respondent Anthony Byron Lamberis was admitted to practice law. That same year, he enrolled in an LL.M. degree program at the Northwestern University School of Law. The degree program required that the candidate submit a thesis and there was no time limit on when the candidate had to complete it. While practicing law, the respondent continued to work on his thesis. His first submitted thesis was rejected as unsatisfactory. He then submitted a new thesis, and in preparing pages 13 through 59 of his 93-page thesis, respondent incorporated, substantially verbatim and without crediting the source, excerpts from two published works. Hence, a substantial portion of his thesis, which the respondent misrepresented as his own work, was the work of other authors. The respondent was notified by the University that there were possible honor code violations concerning his thesis. He attempted to resign from the degree program, but the university refused to accept this resignation. Instead, the law school initiated student disciplinary proceedings, and the faculty of the School of Law voted to expel the respondent for plagiarism. The law school likewise filed a complaint before the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which caused the Administrator to initiate this disciplinary proceeding. The hearing board found that the respondent had knowingly plagiarized the published works and that this plagiarism constituted conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in violation of Ill. Code Prof. Resp. DR 1 -- 102(A)(4). The hearing board recommended that the attorney be censured. The review board recommended that the attorney receive a suspension of six months. For his part, the respondent argued that his plagiarism was not intentional and that discipline was not warranted because the academic forum was sufficiently removed from the practice of law.
Should the respondent attorney be censured?
The court ordered the censure of the respondent as discipline for his plagiarism of published works in his master's degree thesis. The court ruled that discipline was appropriate because both the extent of the appropriated material and the purpose for which it was used evidenced the respondent’s complete disregard for the fundamental values of the legal profession. The court likewise noted that the respondent's conduct amounted to at least a technical infringement of the publishers' federally protected copyrights. Accordingly, the court determined that censure was the appropriate discipline because the conduct displayed only a defect in character; it did not directly cause harm to any person.