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Lawyer's license held up for plagiarism

Last modified: 4/23/2011 12:00:00 AM
The state Supreme Court's professional conduct committee has denied a Hillsboro lawyer's request to reinstate his license, citing incidents of plagiarism in the weekly newspaper he publishes.

The court suspended Leigh Bosse's license for two years in 2007 after he was convicted of forging signatures on real estate documents. He applied for reinstatement last June, and a hearings panel recommended his license be restored with conditions.

But Bosse's plagiarism in the Messenger, which was reported by the publisher of another weekly paper, was dishonest, and Bosse "failed to acknowledge the moral act of plagiarism," according to the professional conduct committee's decision. It denied Bosse's request for reinstatement without prejudice and said he can apply again in one year.

Bosse did not return messages left with the Messenger yesterday. He purchased the Hillsboro paper, a free weekly, in 1989, and told the hearings panel his experience had taught him that "rewriting" articles "was a widely approved practice."

He also told the panel that he had avoided rewriting columns or investigative pieces, since those products are "original and creative as opposed to the 'reporting' of news by beat reporters," according to a document he submitted in support of his request.

The panel also unanimously decided that Bosse had plagiarized. In the four articles the publisher of the Kearsarge-area InterTown Record submitted for the attorney discipline office to compare to Bosse's pieces, some phrases and sentences were deleted, "but significant portions were copied verbatim," the panel said in its decision. "Even typographical errors in the original stories were repeated in Mr. Bosse's versions."

But despite its finding of plagiarism, the panel recommended reinstating Bosse's license, citing his "sincerity, candor and the many kind words of his supporters" as factors in its decision.

The disciplinary counsel who investigated the reported plagiarism, Jennifer Sargent, asked the professional conduct committee to reject the panel's recommendation. In denying that he plagiarized the InterTown Record, "Mr. Bosse demonstrates a particular arrogance," Sargent told the committee during a January oral argument.

Bosse "may be civic-minded in the sense that he participates in community activities," Sargent said, "but when it comes to his work, his practice, he is negligent, remiss, intellectually lazy, and takes shortcuts."

She also noted in documents submitted to the hearings panel that Bosse's plagiarism harmed the InterTown Record, which costs 50 cents a copy, by distributing its articles for free. If readers knew Bosse had cut and pasted from the Record, they might have chosen to buy and read that paper rather than the Messenger, Sargent said.

Sargent said Bosse is still on probation from his forgery convictions, and if he violated those terms he would be unable to practice. Bosse told the conduct committee he hadn't finished paying his fine but was making monthly payments.

He also said he had accepted the hearing panel's findings and altered his practices at the Messenger.

"I've admitted my transgressions from day one and am truly ashamed of what I did," he told the committee.

Bosse's real estate license was revoked as a result of the forgery convictions, which stemmed from a 2003 incident in which he forged a landowner's signature to documents for properties he wanted to sell. Bosse has said he wasn't acting with a criminal intent to defraud.

(Maddie Hanna can be reached at 369-3321 or mhanna@cmonitor.com.)

Updated 4/26 to correct a quotation.


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