The unanimous opinion of the California Supreme Court is that Stephen Glass cannot be a lawyer in California. Glass went to law school after he was declared persona non grata in the journalism world. In 1998, it was discovered that the then 26-year-old Glass had fabricated an article published in The New Republic, a highly-respected news magazine at which Glass was an associate editor. The scandal caused TNR, as well as several other magazines, to review everything he had written for them, and it was determined that 36 out of the 42 articles he wrote for TNR were partially or fully fabricated, as well as one article for Policy Review, two for Rolling Stone, and three for George.
Glass joined The New Republic in 1995, and by 1996 he had been accused of distortions and inaccuracies by the subjects of his articles, some of whom sent letters to the editor. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was written in 1998. It was titled Hack Heaven. The subject of this article was a 15-year-old computer hacker who was negotiating with the company whose network he had hacked for a high-paying information security consultant position. In the article, hacker Ian Restil screams at company executives, demanding that they show him the money. The executives, apologizing first for interrupting his rant, assure him that all his demands will be met.
Though the story’s dialogue is overtly fictional, Glass otherwise went to the great lengths to prevent the story from being found out as untrue. He enlisted his brother to play one of the acquiescing executives in an over-the-phone role, and he also faked business cards, story-gathering notes, a website, and even editions of a hacker newsletter.
Hack Heaven is in some ways similar to the narrative that Glass was attempting, albeit unsuccessfully, to live out in real life; the classic bad boy who goes good and then lives happily ever after. When he was cast out of journalism, Glass went to Georgetown University, one of the top law schools in the U.S., and he graduated magna cum laude. In 2000, he passed the hard part of the New York State Bar Exam, but was refused certification on the moral fitness part due to the TNR affair. In 2003, Glass published a biographical novel called The Fabulist. It enraged many people who saw this “biographical novel” as further evidence of Glass’ inability to write anything that is not at least partially made up, as well as the necessity to use deception as a way of furthering his career.
Glass went on to pass the bar in California as well, but was refused certification again in 2009, again on the moral fitness portion of the test. Glass then contested that decision by petitioning the California State Bar Court’s hearing department and received a favorable decision. The CA Committee of Bar Examiners, however, countered the hearing department’s decision by petitioning the CA Supreme Court to review it. The CA Supreme court granted the petition, and on January 27 they ruled to refuse Glass certification. Unlike Ian Restil’s situation, Glass’ demands were not granted. He was not able to exchange his black hat for a white one as easily as Ian the computer hacker could. It is not enough for CA and NY that Glass is seemingly trying to do the right thing.
By Donna Westlund