Stephen Glass cannot be a lawyer in California, court rules

stephen-glass-mug.jpgThe California Supreme Court today denied a law license to Stephen Glass, the Los Angeles paralegal who fabricated stories as a young journalist. His story was the subject of the film "Shattered Glass." Glass graduated from Georgetown Law School and passed the Bar exam in California and New York, but has been unable to get a license to practice. The state Bar found Glass morally unfit to be a lawyer back in 2009, and the California Supreme Court endorsed that conclusion in a unanimous ruling today.

From Maura Dolan in the LA Times:

"Our review of the record indicates hypocrisy and evasiveness in Glass' testimony at the California State Bar hearing...," the court said. " We find it particularly disturbing that at the hearing, Glass persisted in claiming that he had made a good-faith effort to work with the magazines that published his works.

"He went through many verbal twists and turns at the hearing to avoid acknowledging the obvious fact that in his New York bar application he exaggerated his level of assistance to the magazines that had published his fabrications, and that he omitted from his New York bar list of fabrications some that actually could have injured real persons."

The court said the greater the misconduct in the past, the more the lawyer applicant must demonstrate rehabilitation.

"Instead of directing his efforts at serving others in the community, much of Glass' energy since the end of his journalistic career seems to have been directed at advancing his own career and financial and emotional well-being," the court said.

At the Volokh Conspiracy law blog, Eugene Volokh writes that "the rules of legal ethics famously don’t always match the rules of everyday ethics....Yet despite this, the legal system does care a good deal about lawyer ethics, as it defines them."

And a propensity to outright fabrication is something state bars and state supreme courts are extremely worried about, even if it happens outside the context of legal practice. (The opinion pointed to the fact that, though Glass was in a different profession at the time, that profession also has firm standards related to honesty, and Glass egregiously violated those standards; it also noted that some of Glass’s fabrications occurred while he was going to law school.)

As the opinion relates, many character witnesses for Glass reported that they think he has changed, and the State Bar Court agreed. The California Supreme Court, however, wasn’t persuaded, partly because it concluded that:

Glass’s lack of integrity and forthrightness continued beyond the time he was engaged in journalism. Once he was exposed, Glass’s response was to protect himself, not to freely and fully admit and catalogue all of his fabrications. He never fully cooperated with his employers to clarify the record, failed to carefully review the editorials they published to describe the fabrications to their readership, made misrepresentations to The New Republic regarding some of his work during the period he purported to be cooperating with that magazine, and indeed some of his fabrications did not come to light until the California State Bar proceedings. He refused to speak to his editor at George magazine when the latter called to ask for help in identifying fabrications in the articles Glass wrote for that magazine.

The record also discloses instances of dishonesty and disingenuousness occurring after Glass’s exposure, up to and including the State Bar evidentiary hearing in 2010. In the New York bar proceedings that ended in 2004, as even the State Bar Court majority acknowledged, he made misrepresentations concerning his cooperation with The New Republic and other publications and efforts to aid them identify all of his fabrications. He also submitted an incomplete list of articles that injured others….

Our review of the record indicates hypocrisy and evasiveness in Glass’s testimony at the California State Bar hearing, as well.

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