Stephen Glass, Ex-Journalist, Can't Get Law License

Stephen Glass, the disgraced ex-journalist who was caught fabricating articles for The New Republic and whose exploits were featured in the 2003 film Shattered Glass has lost an appeal where he sought to be licensed to practice law.

On Monday, the California Supreme Court concluded he "failed to carry his heavy burden of establishing his rehabilitation and current fitness."

Glass got a law degree from Georgetown University, and after stepping away from journalism in the aftermath of a scandal, attempted to become a lawyer. Along the way, he made missteps.

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First, he applied to become a member of the New York bar in 2002 and described what had happened to him during his journalism career. He spoke about how he had apologized and helped publications identify what was true and what was not so they could publish clarifications for readers. But during a hearing, his former editors challenged his statements as exaggerating cooperation.

Then, he moved to California, passed a bar examination and filed an application for determination of moral character in 2007. During proceedings before the State Bar in 2010, Glass spoke about psychotherapy sessions. He also presented character witnesses. One doctor testified there was no evidence he was a sociopath. Another attorney who had hired him to be a law clerk spoke up about his intellect and work ethic.

Glass also spoke for himself during proceedings and was asked to address the harm for some of his stories' subjects.

For example, there was an article, "Boys on the Bus," which quoted a person saying that Alec Baldwin didn't know much about campaign finance reform. The person turned out to be fake. Asked about the harm to Baldwin, Glass responded, "Alec Baldwin, truth be told, did not know much about campaign finance reform." Pressed further, he conceded the potential for injury to Baldwin.

A hearing judge found after weighing the evidence that Glass had established good moral character, but a review department panel dissented, pointing to his "staggering" two-year period of "multi-layered, complex and harmful course of public dishonesty."

The California Supreme Court independently weighs the evidence before the State Bar Court and comes away not very impressed with Glass' character. The opinion issued on Monday speaks about how "Glass's lack of integrity and forthrightness continued beyond the time he was engaged in journalism" and notes "hypocrisy and evasiveness in Glass's testimony at the California State Bar hearing."

"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," says the ruling. "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."


Twitter: @eriqgardner