Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Plagiarism Definition:

The representation of the work of others as one's own.

In Nicolas, Justice Harrington of the federal Court of Canada adopted these words to judicially define plagiarize:

"... to take and use as one’s own (the thoughts, writings, or inventions of another person); to copy (literary work or ideas) improperly or without acknowledgement."

In Burghoff, a lawyer was charged with violating of his code of conduct; that he engaged "in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation".

The case came before Justice Paul Kilburg of the United States Bankruptcy Court for Iowa. He wrote:

"It is a violation of the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct for an attorney to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

"Plagiarism, which is the deliberate and knowing presentation of another person's original ideas or creative expressions as one's own, is a form of misrepresentation.... [P]lagiarism constitutes deceit under Illinois Code of Professional Conduct."


In re Zbiegien, a law student, John A. Zbiegien was initially refused admission to the Minnesota bar because he had plagiarized a paper in law school. The Supreme Court of Minnesota held:

"Plagiarism, the adoption of the work of others as one's own, does involve an element of deceit, which reflects on an individual's honesty.... [P]lagiarism ... is ... a violation of academic standards everywhere."


  • In re Burghoff, 374 BR 681 (2007)
  • In re Zbiegien, 433 NW 2d 871 (1988). Ed. note: Zbiegien was admitted anyway because it had been a single incident of dishonesty and the majority of the Court did not feel it should be enough to hold him out of the bar. Two judges disagreed, however, adding: "Honesty is universally recognized as the character trait most fundamental to the practice of law."
  • Nicolas v. Canada (Attorney General), 2010 FC 1045

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