Court refuses to let Stephen Glass practice law in California

Reuters | California Courts

The California Supreme Court released a unanimous opinion Monday that former journalist Stephen Glass cannot practice law in California, according to Dan Levine for Reuters.

Glass was a magazine journalism phenomenon in the late 1990s, whose stories appeared in publications including Rolling Stone, Harper’s and The New Republic. Eventually, Glass acknowledged that 42 articles were partially or wholly fabricated, according to a filing prepared by Glass’s lawyers.

In seeking to become an attorney, Glass argued that he was a changed man who works hard and has won the respect of coworkers. However, the state supreme court ruled that his actions have been largely self-serving.

The opinion by the California Supreme Court includes details on some of the stories Glass fabricated.

Glass’s fabrications began when an article entitled The Hall Monitor was published containing a fabricated quotation from an unnamed source disparaging United States Representative Pete Hoekstra for behaving in Congress like an elementary school “super hall monitor.” He started by fabricating quotations or sources, and ended by publishing wholesale fictions. He testified that “all but a handful” of the 42 articles he published in The New Republic contained fabrications or were entirely fabricated. He also routinely prepared elaborate reporter‟s notes and supporting materials to give the false impression to the magazine’s fact checkers that he had done all the background work for each article and that his informants had spoken words he falsely attributed to them.

The court notes Glass’ fabricated stories included “Taxis and the Meaning of Work” in The New Republic (“Its theme was that Americans, and in particular, African-Americans, were no longer willing to work hard or to take on employment they consider menial”) and “Spring Breakdown,” where “young, conservative Republicans had given up on electoral politics and had turned to drugs and sex,” and how Charles Lane, then the was the editor of The New Republic, uncovered Glass’s deceptions.

The 33-page opinion ends with this:

Glass and the witnesses who supported his application stress his talent in the law and his commitment to the profession, and they argue that he has already paid a high enough price for his misdeeds to warrant admission to the bar. They emphasize his personal redemption, but we must recall that what is at stake is not compassion for Glass, who wishes to advance from being a supervised law clerk to enjoying a license to engage in the practice of law on an independent basis. Given our duty to protect the public and maintain the integrity and high standards of the profession…our focus is on the applicant’s moral fitness to practice law. On this record, the applicant failed to carry his heavy burden of establishing his rehabilitation and current fitness.

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  • The_Truth_Seeker

    There are LOTS of other professions this guy could get into – why did he pick law? For instance, he’d make a great used car salesman (but I hope I’m not insulting them)!

  • P.R. Brown

    The ethical problems of Stephen Glass are insignificant when compared to the egregious ethical lapses of attorneys and judges in Sacramento Family Court and the Third District Court of Appeal. Sacramento Family Court News, an online, nonprofit journalism organization has documented egregious misconduct by both attorneys and judges in these jurisdictions. And it worthy to note that California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakuaye began her career as a judge in both of these lower courts. These web pages at SFCN have more information:

  • Law Prof

    Sorry to be in the minority on this. Putting aside the usual anti-lawyer jokes (which journalists should certainly avoid), it seems to me that the court may be acting defensively, precisely because of the society’s anti-lawyer biases. People can change. A person can turn his or her life around, and we should not close doors that make it even harder to restore one’s life. I can’t speak directly to this case, but let’s not be too quick to say once-a-wrongdoer-always-to-be-treated-as-a-wrongdoer.

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    Did he also help fabricate this “story”, or did ABC News and Siemens dream it up all by themselves?

  • HeraSentMe

    You know it’s bad when you’re such a slimy liar and repulsive person that even lawyers don’t want you around.