Remember California Attorney Mary Frances Prevost, Who Plagiarized Ethics Alarms? Guess What!

Yup, I saw THIS coming...

Yup, I saw THIS coming…

She’s been suspended.

For the third time.


To recap…Back in 2012, Mary Frances, who  describes herself on her website as “California’s Top Criminal & DUI Attorney,” posted an essay allegedly authored by her called  “The Trayvon Martin Case Trainwreck: George Zimmerman’s Attorneys Need To Shut Up!”

Oddly, it was posted the same day and shortly after my Ethics Alarms post, “Next To Board The Trayvon Martin Ethics Train Wreck? Why, The Lawyers, Of Course!”

Mary Frances’s was almost word for word the same post, plus some original material at the end. She had ripped me off. She hadn’t even tried to disguise it. This is called stealing, and I believe, shows that an individual lacks the honesty and trustworthiness to practice law.

I took three deep breaths, wrote a post about her plagiarism, e-mailed Prevost and required four things. First, an explanation if she had one; then an apology, a retraction, and proper credit. I didn’t demand damages, as I could have.

Mary Frances’s response was astounding. She didn’t have the courtesy to respond to my e-mail, but went on Facebook to accuse me of plagiarizing her, a neat trick, since my post pre-dated hers. Then she insulted me repeatedly, apparently unaware of how hypocritical it is to claim another lawyer is lacking in legal analysis skills and writing ability when you just published his essay as your own. I posted her whole rant here; it is deranged, making it especially funny that she accused me of being “off my meds.”

The Facebook post was defamation per se: malicious, and deliberately false. I contacted a California attorney, who agreed it was defamation, but said that based on her reputation, he felt it would  not be worth the money, the trouble or all the attacks she was capable of to go to war with her. He also dissuaded me from filing an ethics complaint, saying that unlike some states, California frowns on ethics complaints when there are grounds for lawsuits, and also tends to discount complaints from non-California lawyers.

“Just wait,” he said. “She’ll get hers. Lawyers like this almost always do.” Continue reading

Editor, Plagiarist and Ethics Dunce Extraordinaire Robert Ripley Meets His Worst Nightmare…

….and that nightmare is Duane Lester, a hard-working, honest, courageous, organized and determined blogger who wasn’t going to let a newspaper rip him off and get away with it. Lester researched and posted an original local news story, a true scoop, and days letter was shocked to find that a local paper, the Oregon Times Observer, had lifted his entire post and put it on the paper’s front page, without credit, permission, or attribution. Shocked and unprepared for such flagrant and shameless appropriation of his labors, he researched the issue, wrote a letter, and then visited the paper to demand payment. Brilliantly, he also brought along a friend with a video camera.

The whole story, as well as the enlightening and satisfying confrontation between the Blogger and the Word Thief, is on the resulting video. There is a lot to see here.

Continue reading

Credit Ethics: New Ethics Alarms Policy

The sound of my palm belatedly smacking my expansive forehead

What will heretofore be referred to as “The Mary Frances Prevost Affair” has its silver lining. Watching another blogger incorporate the main body of my blog post into her own by-lined essay without credit or attribution has caused me to do a lot of thinking about the inadequacy of credit and attribution in the blogosphere  generally, with a relatively  few exceptions. Most of these are blogs written by academics who hold to the standards of their profession rather than the much looser practices of the internet. It also caused me to wake up to the inadequacy of my own attribution practices on Ethics Alarms. I have never taken an entire post from another source and represented it as my own, but I have frequently taken a factual account of a story from another website that itself was essentially  republishing, for example, an AP story, put the facts in my own words, sometimes with a stray phrase remaining, and not credited either source. I have often derived information in a post from multiple news sources but only linked to the one that I felt related the event the most thoroughly and clearly. Another writer’s work has sometimes sparked an idea for a post that was substantially different, and I have not credited the source of that spark.

All of this is common practice in blogging, but it is still wrong, and sloppiness is always a slippery slope. In the wake of “The Mary Frances Prevost Affair,” a colleague alerted me that I had included one complete sentence and part of another in an Ethics Alarms post that were identical to the post of another writer on the same subject. I didn’t even recall using the source, but upon going over my notes, I found that the earlier post had supplied me with the bulk of the facts I relied upon, though not the analysis of them. . I immediately contacted the author to apologize, and he was gracious and understanding. Nonetheless, this should never happen, especially on an ethics blog.

Therefore, as of today, Ethics Alarms will maintain a strict policy of crediting all sources that go into the inspiration, research and writing of the posts here. Links in the body of the text will be either be for informational purposes only, such as when I make a gratuitous cultural reference that nobody under the age of 50 is likely to recognize, or to back up direct quotes. At the end of each post, there will be credits and/or links listed, when appropriate, in some or all of the following categories: Continue reading

The Plagiarist Strikes Back!

Move along, Atticus. Nothing to see here, and I wouldn't want you to barf.

Well, some of you called it. I was a sap. I expected better.

Mary Frances Prevost, the California criminal law attorney who substantially expropriated an Ethics Alarms post and placed her name on it, responded to my request for an explanation, and failing that, an apology, a retraction, and proper credit, with this (on her Facebook page), in which she said, in part:

“I received a histrionic run-on-sentence email from someone named “Jack Marshall” today accusing me of committing crimes, threatening to report me to my bar association(s), the Inns of Court, and essentially spend your days and nights harassing me.” I have also viewed a a highly unethical rant published purportedly by you on a blog suggesting strongly that I have engaged in unethical conduct throughout the entire course of my career. I have counseled with one of the country’s premiere ethics attorneys. Here’s the result: 1) accusing me of a crime is defamation per se and unethical; 2) suggesting that my entire law practice has been based on unethical conduct is defamatory and unethical. I maintained copies both of your email and blog. It is clear that you are hell bent on engaging in systematic harassment and unethical conduct, the likes of which can, and most likely will, develop into a lawsuit unless rescinded forthwith. It is clear you have little to do in your life besides sent me emails accusing me of crimes, and writing poorly written blog posts accusing me of immoral behavior. Interesting how one making such claims, engages in most egregious conduct himself….But the sheer amount of energy really suggests something more: a lack of work; too much time; off your meds. I suggest you take a look inward and remove your defamatory and unethical blog post regarding me. Indeed, you should come clean on your blog. You’ve practiced law only two weeks before giving up. Yet, your resume suggests far more experience. I think you should rethink what you’ve done.”

Now how do you like that? Continue reading

Is a Plagiarist a Trustworthy Attorney? Let’s Ask Mary Frances Prevost!

This is me, apparently.

San Diego criminal defense attorney Mary Frances Prevost has an interesting post on her blog about the ethics of George Zimmerman’s first set of attorneys.


You wouldn’t know it was mine, of course, because blogger/attorney/ former Washington Post journalist Prevost has slapped her own name on it. There it is, right at the beginning: “by Mary Francis Prevost.” I think that’s interesting.

Her post, entitled “The Trayvon Martin Case Trainwreck: George Zimmerman’s Attorneys Need To Shut Up!”, was posted the same day as the Ethics Alarms post, “Next To Board The Trayvon Martin Ethics Train Wreck? Why, The Lawyers, Of Course!”, which began, coincidentally enough, by quoting John Steel’s post from the Legal Ethics Forum that read, “[S]hut up, guys. Shut the h*** up.”  It was two introductory paragraphs later, however, when “her” post got into the substance of “her” analysis of the ethical problems with the farewell press conference given by George Zimmerman’s attorneys shortly before the shooter of Trayvon Martin was charged, however, that I really began getting a serious dose of deja vu, also known as “Holy crap! This woman stole my article!” Continue reading