Stephen Glass, Ex-Journalist Who Fabricated Stories, Banned From Being Lawyer in CA

The California Supreme Court headquarters in San Francisco. Courtesy Wikimedia.
The California Supreme Court headquarters in San Francisco. Courtesy Wikimedia.

By Bay City News

The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that a disgraced former journalist who fabricated all or part of more than 40 magazine articles is not morally fit to practice law in the state.

In a ruling issued in San Francisco, the high court rejected the application of Stephen Glass, 41, to become a member of the State Bar and thereby be licensed to practice law. 

Glass, who now has a law degree and is working as a paralegal in Southern California, wrote most of the fabricated articles while working as a reporter for the New Republic magazine between 1996 and 1998. 

Several were published in other national magazines, including Harper's and Rolling Stone. 

The state Supreme Court has the final say on who can be a lawyer in California. The seven justices issued the decision in a "by the court" ruling that did not specify an individual author.

The justices wrote, "Glass's journalistic dishonesty was not a single lapse of judgment, which we have sometimes excused, but involved significant deceit sustained unremittingly for a period of years."

"Glass's deceit also was motivated by professional ambition, (and) betrayed a vicious, mean spirit and complete lack of compassion for others, along with arrogance and prejudice against various ethnic groups," the court said.

"In all these respects, his misconduct bore directly on his character in matters that are critical to the practice of law," the panel said.

The nationally publicized scandal was the subject of a 2003 movie titled "Shattered Glass." Glass also wrote a novel with a fictionalized account of his misdeeds, titled "The Fabulist." He earned $140,000 from the novel, which he said he used to support himself and pay for psychotherapy. 

Glass and his lawyers and supporters had argued that he had become rehabilitated and should be allowed to practice law. 

Glass's attorney, Jon Eisenberg of Oakland, said, "Mr. Glass appreciates the court's consideration of his application and respects the court's decision." 

State Bar President Luis Rodriguez said, "The ruling today vindicates the idea that honesty is of paramount importance in the practice of law in California." 

Glass began the fraud by making up quotes and gradually over the two years invented sources, organizations and entire stories.

The article that triggered his downfall in 1998 was "Hack Heaven," an entirely made-up story about a supposed 15-year-old hacker who extorts money from a fictional California software company in exchange for not hacking into the company's security network.

In addition to fabricating the story, Glass, who was then 25, created fake reporter's notes, a phony company website and a bogus newsletter. He got his brother, then a Stanford University student, to pose 

as a company executive during a phone call from a fact checker.

In earlier stories, Glass fabricated quotes and incidents that disparaged African-Americans, Jews and conservative Republican male college students. 

The state high court noted that the fabrications continued while Glass started law school as an evening student at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1997. 

After Glass had begun law school, the court said, "the importance of honesty should have gained new meaning and significance for him."

But while Glass began confessing his fabrications in 1998, he did not disclose the full number and extent of false articles until applying to the State Bar years later, the court said.

Copyright © 2014 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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