Letters to the Editor: Dershowitz responds to accusations


Kyle Hudson’s (04) letter to the editor is long on rage but short on facts. Hudson says “I believe Professor Dershowitz used the same gambit during his own attribution flap.” The reference to a “gambit” suggests that I used research assistants to write The Case for Israel and then blamed them for a problem of attribution. First, there was no problem of attribution. My biased accuser claimed that I cited the quotations in question to their original sources, rather than to their secondary sources. Yes I did, and that is the correct method of attribution. I have asked Harvard Law School’s distinguished librarian for an opinion on this issue and he has concluded as follows:

Should an author (1) who wants to use a quotation from another author (2) that he found while reading the work of a third author (3) cite to the original source (2) or to the work (3) that cited it?

It is common practice in both legal and non-legal citation to cite to the original source. [Sources Cited].

If a legal writer reads a passage from the Constitution or from a Restatement of the Law land wants to use that passage himself in a piece he is writing, he will not cite to the quoting work but to the original. Generally speaking, the legal reader is interested in the quality of the argument and the weight of the authority, not the trail of research undertaken by the author.

Are there exceptions? As explained by the Chicago Manual, when the original source is not available to the author, a respected transcription may be used. Furthermore, where the original source might be difficult for most readers to locate, a citation to a more accessible source