November 6, 2013
CBS News, file/Associated Press - FILE - This May 7, 2003 file video frame grab released by CBS’ ”60 Minutes” shows Stephen Glass, former writer for The New Republic in New York.
 This May 7, 2003, video frame grab released by CBS’s “60 Minutes” shows Stephen Glass, former writer for The New Republic in New York.

This word of caution doesn’t apply to a large universe of people, but here it is anyhow: If you rack up 40-plus fabricated articles in a Beltway journalism career and later seek to become a lawyer in the state of California, you’ll have to do a lot of atonement if you are to pass muster with the California Supreme Court.

We’re talking here, of course, about the case of 41-year-old Stephen Glass, who in the 1990s wrote tainted stories for the New Republic, Rolling Stone and others. After he got himself booted from journalism, he secured his law degree from Georgetown University. He tried to become a lawyer in New York but withdrew his bar application when told that he wouldn’t make it. He moved to California and passed its bar exam in 2007, setting up a multi-year fight involving Glass and the state’s committee of bar examiners. The court has 90 days to decide the case, according to the Associated Press.

The Erik Wemple Blog tuned in to portions of the hearing, which made for compelling viewing. If you like legal beatdowns, that is. Glass attorney Jon Eisenberg sustained tough and sharp questioning from justice after justice — about the extent to which Glass has made amends for his lying, about how important honesty is in the practice of law, about the extent of the charity that Glass has practiced since his offenses.

A big part of Eisenberg’s pitch rested on the testimony of those who’ve watched Glass try to recover from his misdeeds, a strategy that Reuters’s Jack Shafer examined in a 2011 piece:

Siding with Glass during a 10-day administrative trial in 2010 were 22 friendly witnesses, who attested to his rehabilitation. They included two psychiatrists, four law professors, two judges, 10 attorneys, long-term friends, his life-partner, and even Martin Peretz, sole owner of the New Republic at the time the fabricated stories were published. “I don’t think what Steve committed, and his journey after, should condemn him to be exiled from respectable, ethical society,” Peretz told the court. All of the friendly witnesses endorsed Glass’s “current high standards for honesty and integrity,” as Judge Honn, ruling in Glass’s favor, writes in his Aug. 19, 2010, decision.

“He has impressed a number of people,” Eisenberg said in today’s hearing, via AP.

The hearing made clear that Glass needed a whole lot more than just friendly testimony to get past this court.

 

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.