SAN FRANCISCO – The deceit of disgraced former reporter Stephen Glass in the journalism world was so extraordinary that his tale was turned into a critically acclaimed movie, "Shattered Glass."
Glass made up all or parts of 42 magazine articles published in the New Republic, Rolling Stone and elsewhere in the 1990s when he was in his mid-20s and a rising literary star. He then went to great lengths to cover up his deceit by creating business cards, a fictitious Web site and having his brother pose as a source when editors began scrutinizing his work. Two years after he was drummed out of journalism in 1998, Glass graduated from Georgetown University's law school and then proceeded to pass California's notoriously difficult bar examination in 2007.
His application for a law license has been pending for six years as state bar officials grappled with whether to admit Glass, 41.
On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court will take up the issue in what is likely the final stage of Glass' quest to be a California lawyer. After hearing oral arguments on the issue, the court will take up to 90 days to decide whether Glass should be allowed to practice law in California.
A California State Bar admission committee turned down Glass' application on moral grounds in 2009. A State Bar court judge overturned the committee after a 10-day hearing and found Glass fit to practice law. An internal State Bar appellate court voted 2-1 in 2011 to admit Glass, prompting the admission committee to ask the Supreme Court to decide the issue. The dissenting appellate judge noted that the New York State Bar turned down Glass' application to practice law in that state in 2004, the year he moved to Los Angles.
Glass' attorney Jon Eisenberg declined comment, and Glass turned down interview requests.
Eisenberg argues in court papers that Glass has kept his nose clean since 1998. Eisenberg said Glass has undergone 10 years of psychotherapy, apologized to editors and publishers he duped with stories of young hackers, anti-Semitic computer company phone operators and an unflattering profile of Vernon Jordan, President Bill Clinton's close friend and legal adviser.
Glass has been employed as a law clerk and is currently a paralegal in a Los Angeles personal injury law firm. Two State Bar courts have sided with Glass over the objections of State Bar lawyers. The two judges he clerked for as well as several law school teachers and employers also support his application.
"Second chances are an American story," Eisenberg wrote in filings with California Supreme Court. "This case is such a story. One of redemption."
Not true, State Bar lawyers argued in their court filings opposing his licensing.
They wrote that his "serial lies shocked the conscience of the journalism community and the American public" and argue that Glass "has done little, if anything, to repair the damage he has done."
The State Bar admission committee that initially rejected his application found it irksome that Glass earned $140,000 from the sales of his book of fiction loosely based on his life called "The Fabulist." The admission committee argued that Glass should have used the proceeds to actively further his rehabilitation in some other way than simply pocketing them.
Carol Langford, who teaches legal ethics at the University of California, Berkeley law school, says the State Bar lawyers who oppose Glass' application make a strong case.
"He would be in a far better place if he was more active in his rehabilitation," Langford said. "He should have donated all proceeds from his book deal to setting up a journalism ethics class, for instance."
The California State Bar admission committee that initially rejected Glass' application viewed the book as Glass "cashing in on his infamy."
Glass disputed that characterization in testimony before the State Bar court in 2010. He said the book was meant to be a "cautionary tale that would be helpful to journalism students and people like that." Glass said writing the book was therapeutic.
Eisenberg said his client used proceeds to pay for living expenses, therapy and lawyer fees for three years and that the State Bar is making "unreasonable demands of Glass" to show repentance and reformation.
"Sackcloth, ashes and a vow of poverty are not required for Glass to become a worthy member of the California Bar," Eisenberg wrote. "Glass has done many good deeds during his years in California. That he might be more saintly should not matter."