Stephen Glass denied admission to California bar

January 27

One of journalism’s most infamous con artists has lost his bid to become a lawyer in California.

The California Supreme Court decided that Stephen Glass, former writer for The New Republic, will not be permitted a law license. Glass left the journalism profession after he was caught fabricating magazine articles. (AP Photo/CBS News)
The California Supreme Court decided that Stephen Glass, former writer for The New Republic, will not be permitted a law license. Glass left the journalism profession after he was caught fabricating magazine articles. (AP Photo/CBS News)

Stephen Glass, the serial fabulist whose deceptions as a journalist for the New Republic and other magazines during the 1990s were dramatized in the movie “Shattered Glass,” was rejected for admission to the California bar on character grounds, the state’s supreme court ruled Monday in a decision that was unusally critical of Glass.

Glass sought to become a lawyer after his New Republic editor, Charles Lane (now a Washington Post columnist), fired him from the magazine after discovering that he had made up material in dozens of articles published between 1996 and 1998.

After graduating from Georgetown University’s law school (and writing a novel called “The Fabulist”),  he was rejected for the New York bar after a character review in 2004. He then moved to California, working as a law clerk. He applied for the California bar in 2007, beginning a long character review.

In a ruling released Monday, the California Supreme Court rejected Glass’ application and offering a stinging rebuke: “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,” the court wrote. “Glass’s deceit also was motivated by professional ambition, betrayed a vicious, mean spirit and a complete lack of compassion for others, along with arrogance and prejudice against various ethnic groups. In all these respects, his misconduct bore directly on his character in matters that are critical to the practice of law.”

It concluded that Glass “has not sustained his heavy burden of demonstrating rehabilitation and fitness for the practice of law.”

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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