Stephen Glass, the fabulist who wrote dozens of false and libelous stories for TNR and other magazines in the ’90s, is still having trouble getting his new career as a lawyer going; the California Supreme Court just denied him admission to the state bar. David Plotz, who strongly dislikes Glass, calls the decision “misguided and cruel”:
The Supreme Court also worries that Glass would fabricate documents and deceive clients, a bizarre and backward conclusion. The very first thing anyone knows about Glass is that he was a liar and a fraud. Any judge he appears before will know: This is that lying journalist. Any opposing counsel will be aware: This is Shattered Glass. He’s not trying to sneak into courtrooms under a new name: He’s Stephen Glass. He is a flashing red highway sign. This is what happens when you Google him. Glass is far less likely than most lawyers to try to sneak something past a judge, because he’ll know that every single word he speaks and document he signs is suspect.
[W]hile what Glass did as a journalist is appalling, the unyielding and scathing tone of the California Supreme Court seems to be somewhat shocking in the face of the common story of America being a land of redemption and second chances. Especially when the lower tribunals, that heard the real evidence, found otherwise. I guess second chances and redemption are only for banksters and war criminals, but not for a guy who made up some lousy digital media stories. You don’t have to like Stephen Glass to see the disconnect here as to who in American life really gets the shots at second chances.
I hired Glass as a personal assistant way back when.
In that job, he was terrific, as well as meticulous and charming and, in retrospect, sociopathic and manipulative. Mercifully, I had gone from TNR when he was wreaking his terrible damage to the place. I still feel a lot of anger about him and what he did, but I cannot but agree with David. The man at some point deserves to be able to start over. He’s been working as a paralegal in a law firm for ten years; he has passed the bar; there have been no allegations of unethical conduct in his current job. Maybe this says something about the pecking order, as this quote from the NYT suggests:
The question is, Are we prepared to say as lawyers that a man who is no longer considered moral enough to be a journalist is moral enough to be a lawyer? If people flame out in journalism because of dishonesty, is the law open to them? I think the answer is no.
Would journalists say that of an ethically challenged lawyer seeking to write about the news? I doubt it.