It is an open secret that judges sometimes plagiarize from submissions by the lawyers before them, and even from articles and books by academics. With respect to the latter, they are often aided and abetted by their clerks—law students working with them as research assistants.
Unlike scholarly or literary cheaters, the worry about judicial plagiarists is not that they undermine the research process, violate authors’ ‘moral rights’, or steal someone’s intellectual property. Judicial plagiarism is worse than any of these. It undermines the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. A judge who knowingly or recklessly reproduces words or arguments of others as if they were his own may not be making his own decisions. If discovered, this undermines public confidence that the judiciary can be relied on to think for itself.