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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Serial Fabulist Steve Glass Spiked From California Bar

(CN) - Stephen Glass, the reporter whose dozens of fabricated articles for The New Republic eluded fact-checks for years, is not welcome to practice law in California, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Glass had churned out dozens of faked stories since his start at the magazine in June 1996 until he was caught in May 1998.

The unanimous 35-page opinion from the seven-justice court detailed the lowlights of his journalistic career.

Glass once made up a quote from an unnamed source disparaging U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., for supposedly acting like an elementary school "super hall monitor."

He invented three characters in a story "Taxis and the Meaning of Work," whose "theme" was that "Americans, and in particular, African-Americans, were no longer willing to work hard or to take on employment they consider menial," the opinion states.

"Spring Breakdown" chronicled the invented lives of male college students attending the Conservative Political Action Conference. He reported that one of the imagined men criticizing the movement as being "like a guy who has to pee lost in the desert, searching for a tree."

These lies, and others, formed the basis of the Hayden Christensen film "Shattered Glass."

The justices found it especially "reprehensible" that Glass was taking night classes at Georgetown University's law school while deceiving the readers and editors of The New Republic.

He claimed to have reformed when he applied to the New York bar in 2002, but he withdrew his application when he was "informally notified" two years later that his moral character would not pass muster.

He also handwrote about 100 apology letters to journalists and those affected by his articles, started undergoing psychotherapy and moved in with his girlfriend, a lawyer named Julie Hilden.

Glass passed his California bar examination in 2006 and applied for a moral character review a year later.

His psychiatrists and professors, as well as the former owner of The New Republic, Martin Peretz, testified on behalf of Glass at his 2010 hearing, but the process ultimately uncovered more dishonesty.

Glass acknowledged during the proceedings that he "wrote nasty, mean-spirited, horrible" things about people, including some new ones he had not confessed to before.

"It was not until the California State Bar moral character proceedings that Glass reviewed all of his articles, as well as the editorials The New Republic and other journals published to identify his fabrications, and ultimately identified fabrications that he previously had denied or failed to disclose," the opinion states. "In the California proceedings, Glass was not forthright in acknowledging the defects in his New York bar application."

The judges wrote 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," the opinion states. "On this record, the applicant failed to carry his heavy burden of establishing his rehabilitation and current fitness."

His attorney, Jon Eisenberg, remained tight-lipped about his client's future plans.

"Mr. Glass appreciates the court's consideration of his application and respects the court's decision," Eisenberg said in a statement.

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