Stephen Glass faked all or parts of more than 40 articles for national magazines from 1996 to 1998. In 2003, he acknowledged that his violation of journalistic standards was so severe that he would "never be welcomed within journalism, and rightly so."
Now the California Supreme Court will decide whether Glass' behavior was so bad as to make him morally unfit to practice law.
Glass, whose frauds were the subject of the 2003 film "Shattered Glass," is now a 39-year-old law clerk at a firm in Beverly Hills. He passed the bar exam and applied for an attorney's license in 2007, but the State Bar's Committee of Bar Examiners turned him down, questioning his claims of remorse and rehabilitation and saying he had not yet shown he could be trusted.
Glass appealed to the independent State Bar Court, which ruled 2-1 in his favor in July. The majority found "overwhelming evidence of Glass' reform and rehabilitation" since 1998 and noted he had impressive character references from 22 witnesses, including two judges who had employed him, two psychiatrists who treated him, and the former editor in chief of the New Republic, where most of the fabricated articles appeared.
The bar examiners appealed, and the state's high court voted last month to review the case, leaving Glass' application on hold while he awaits a hearing, possibly next fall.
Glass was not charged with any crimes for his magazine articles. But the court must still decide whether he has behaved well enough, and for long enough, to erase the doubts about his character.
Glass did not respond to a request for comment.
Glass was 23 and a year out of college when he landed an internship with the New Republic in 1995. He was one of the magazine's brightest young stars 2 1/2 years later when he was fired by editor Charles Lane, who was in the process of learning that virtually everything Glass had written since 1996 contained falsehoods -- quotes, sources, events. Often entire articles were fabricated.
Glass' deceptions also appeared in Harper's, Rolling Stone, Policy Review and the now-defunct George magazine. He invented stories about politicians across the spectrum, including then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton's aide Vernon Jordan, whose supposed sexual excesses were described in bogus quotes.
The two sides in the current case offer contrasting diagnoses for Glass' behavior.
Glass, by his own account, "enjoyed the excitement and success that the lies brought him," State Bar lawyers said in court documents. But his lawyers said therapists who have treated Glass for 12 years found that he suffered from self-hatred and arrested development.
Glass started apologizing for his misdeeds in the early 2000s, writing about 100 letters to magazines and the subjects of his articles. In 2003, he published "The Fabulist," a novel about his experiences, and made a contrite appearance that year on CBS's "60 Minutes."
He also applied to become a lawyer in 2003 after passing the New York bar exam. But the state's bar did not act on his request for moral character approval, and he withdrew his application in 2004 and moved to Los Angeles.
While working at the law firm, his lawyers said, Glass has performed hundreds of hours of charitable work and has done legal research, some of it on his own time, on behalf of underprivileged youth and victims of racial violence.
There is "overwhelming evidence" of Glass' "maturation, reformation and rehabilitation over the past 13 years," his lawyers told the court. Glass, in a statement to the bar, said he was "greatly ashamed and remorseful about my lying" but now is "forthright and candid about my years of misconduct."
The bar's lawyers disagree. They say Glass did not provide a full list of his fabrications until 2009, never compensated anyone harmed by his articles, and never offered to donate any of his earnings, like the proceeds of his novel, to projects promoting journalistic ethics.
Though journalism and law practice differ greatly in their structure and regulation, State Bar attorney Rachel Grunberg said in an interview, they have the same basic ethical standards.
The two professions "share common core values -- trust, candor, veracity, honor, respect for others," she said. "He violated every one of them."
(Email Bob Egelko at email@example.com. For more stories visit scrippsnews.com)