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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Disgraced journalist Stephen Glass
makes appeal to CA Supreme Court

By Laura Ernde
Staff Writer

Questions about moral character are in the spotlight this month as the California Supreme Court holds oral argument on whether a disgraced journalist should be admitted to practice law.

Stephen Glass

Stephen Glass rocked the journalism world in the late 1990s when he was fired from The New Republic for fabricating material in dozens of articles and inventing more lies to cover his tracks. The magazine described it as “a breathtaking web of deception that emerged as the most sustained fraud in modern journalism.”

After being exposed, Glass continued studying law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he excelled. He passed the New York bar exam, but withdrew his application for a law license in 2004 after learning he would not pass the moral fitness test.

He then moved to California, passing the California bar exam in 2006, but the Committee of Bar Examiners denied his admission on moral character grounds. A State Bar Court hearing judge and a 2-1 panel of the bar court’s Review Department disagreed and recommended his admission.

The California Supreme Court, which has the final say over admission and discipline issues, agreed to hear the case in 2011 at the request of the Committee of Bar Examiners.

In court papers, Glass’ attorneys describe him as deeply remorseful for the admittedly appalling conduct that occurred when he was in his mid-20s.

They cite a decade of psychotherapy, exemplary work as a law clerk at the Los Angeles firm of Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley and a stable and fulfilling personal life as evidence that he has rehabilitated himself.

“He has committed himself to unrelenting honesty,” his lawyers wrote, urging the Supreme Court to defer to the State Bar Court’s findings.

The Committee of Bar Examiners calls Glass’ attempts at redemption opportunistic and self-serving, pointing out that he overstated his efforts to correct his journalism record to New York bar officials. It was only when he sought admission to the California bar 11 years later that he took steps to identify all the fabrications in other publications, including Harper’s Magazine.

“The timing of his self-proclaimed acts of contrition all center around circumstances that are aimed at benefiting him rather than his victims,” the committee’s attorneys wrote.

The high court’s oral argument is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 6 at the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building, 914 Capitol Mall, Sacramento. Senior Assistant General Counsel Rachel S. Grunberg will argue on behalf of the Committee of Bar Examiners. Appellate lawyer Jon B. Eisenberg of Horvitz & Levy LLP will argue on behalf of Glass. A live webcast will air on The California Channel.

For more information, read the briefs in In re Stephen Randall Glass on Admission, S196374. A decision is expected by early February.