By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Stephen Glass, one of the most infamous fabricators in modern American journalism, has not demonstrated that he is fit to practice law and should not be admitted to the California bar, the state's top court ruled.
In a unanimous opinion released on Monday, the California Supreme Court said Glass had not engaged in the kind of exemplary conduct over a long period that would make up for his earlier behavior as a journalist.
Glass was a magazine journalism phenomenon in the late 1990s, whose stories appeared in publications including Rolling Stone, Harper's and The New Republic. Eventually, Glass acknowledged that 42 articles were partially or wholly fabricated, according to a filing prepared by Glass's lawyers.
In seeking to become an attorney, Glass argued that he was a changed man who works hard and has won the respect of coworkers. However, the state supreme court ruled that his actions have been largely self-serving.
"Instead of directing his efforts at serving others in the community," the court wrote, "much of Glass‟s energy since the end of his journalistic career seems to have been directed at advancing his own career and financial and emotional well-being."
A lawyer for Glass, Jon Eisenberg, said Glass "appreciates the court's consideration of his application and respects the court's decision."
Glass's journalism career came crashing down in 1998 when one of his editors received a tip that one story was a fabrication.
"Glass invented sources, events and organizations. He concocted quotes," his attorneys acknowledged in a court filing. "On several occasions he told mean-spirited and hurtful lies about real people."
Glass wrote a fictionalized account of the events in the book "The Fabulist," and the movie "Shattered Glass" was based on his experience.
After his journalism career ended, Glass attended law school and applied to the California State Bar. The Committee on Bar Examiners, which requires that applicants "receive a positive moral character determination," rejected his application. Glass then appealed to a special court which granted the admission request.
The Committee on Bar Examiners challenged that ruling, and the California Supreme Court agreed to review it.
Glass submitted testimony from lawyers, judges and others attesting to his honest nature, including Martin Peretz, who edited the New Republic at the time of Glass's fabrications. Glass also offered to repay his salary to Peretz in 2008. To the court, though, the timing of that gesture made it suspect.
"This offer was made after Glass applied to the California Bar and was another oddly belated and, we believe, disingenuous effort at making his victims whole," the state supreme court wrote.
Glass and his supporters argued he has already paid a high enough price for his misdeeds but the court said its duty is to maintain the integrity of the profession and protect the public.
"We must recall that what is at stake is not compassion for Glass," the court wrote.
The case in the California Supreme Court is In re Stephen Randall Glass on Admission, S196374.
(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Grant McCool and James Dalgleish)