Would you hire this man to be your lawyer?

posted at 10:58 am on December 27, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

For several years, the case of Stephen Glass has fascinated me.  Even before the excellent film Shattered Glass, I had followed the story of the serial fabulist, who fabricated dozens of stories for The New Republic and other magazines, and who then tried to cash in on his notoriety with a novel called The Fabulist, a thinly-disguised fictionalization of his own antics.  When that failed, Glass decided to pursue a career as an attorney, but found that the state of New York took the requirement for honesty and integrity for admission to the bar a bit too seriously for him to qualify.  He headed to California, and the state Supreme Court will mull over his request for admission to the bar there.

The New York Times’ Joe Nocera says we should all cut the kid a break:

But the record that was assembled during the first judicial proceeding, which took place in the spring of 2010, sends a powerful, and even uplifting, message about how a troubled soul can turn his life around. Enrolled in Georgetown University Law Center when the scandal broke, Glass was unhireable as a lawyer when he got his degree. A sympathetic professor, Susan Low Bloch, helped him land a clerkship with a District of Columbia judge. Then he moved to New York where he passed the bar but withdrew his application when he learned he was going to be turned down. To support himself, he wrote a fictional account of his misdeeds. He underwent intensive psychotherapy and sought out those whom he had wronged to apologize. He fell in love, moved with her to California and took — and passed — the California Bar exam. …

In all, 22 witnesses testified to Glass’s good character, including Professor Bloch, the judge he had clerked for and, most remarkably, Martin Peretz, who was the sole owner of The New Republic when Glass fabricated his stories and was deeply embarrassed by the scandal. “I always thought redemption was within his means because he was fundamentally a good kid,” Peretz told me. …

We like to tell ourselves that we believe in the power of redemption. People can make mistakes — even big mistakes — and, in time, recover from them. Stephen Glass is someone who made a big mistake. The infamy of his misdeeds will follow him forever. But if anyone can be said to have redeemed himself by his subsequent actions, it is Glass.

I believe in the possibility of redemption, especially as a person of faith.  If I didn’t believe people could change and redeem their past mistakes, I would despair for myself and everyone I know; none of us are perfect or free from stain.  However, I’m not so sure that a pathological liar can change his stripes quite so easily, and it’s certainly a good question for the Supreme Court to consider in this case.  For instance, let’s return to The Fabulist for a moment, a novel that flopped despite Glass’ notorious reputation, or perhaps because of it.  Book critic John Moe ripped Glass for not getting the point in a review published by Amazon as the sales lead for the novel:

The Fabulist is a mostly an empty exercise, devoid of strong characters, compelling action, or, finally, a reason to exist. Glass told lies, got caught, got fired, and then wrote a book about it. Why should we care? While interesting possibilities surely existed in tracing the arc of a career of fakery, Glass chooses instead to begin his story just as “Stephen” is being exposed for the first time. He fills the rest of the book by taking us through the character’s dull and lengthy process of recovery as he seeks sanctuary with his parents, changes girlfriends, finds a new job and a new apartment, and avoids the spotlight of his scandal.

The Fabulist is populated with characters seemingly pulled from the scrap heap of numerous failed sitcoms: the Egotistical Boss, the Girlfriend Who Doesn’t Understand, the Pushy Older Jewish Lady with a Single Granddaughter, and the Comically Mysterious Co-workers. Many of the characters are reportedly based on real people and are portrayed, disappointingly, as jerks and fools more deserving of derision than apology. Perhaps the most distressing part of The Fabulist is that there’s no heart and no center. The central character, the only hero we are offered, never seems to understand who he is. He lies, those lies get him in trouble, he searches for an explanation or redemption for his actions, but neither he nor we ever understand what is to be gained from it all.

The Fabulist was published five years after Glass’ exposure as a serial fabricator, which gives some indication that whatever remorse or reform Glass experienced was quite a long time coming.  Jack Shafer can’t believe that anyone would consider admitting someone with Glass’ record to the bar in any state, especially since the application relied heavily on casting Glass as a victim of parental mismanagement:

Glass’s lawyers give his updated side of the story in a September 2011 filing, insisting that their client’s youth at the time of the original scandal should mitigate in favor of his rehabilitation. On this note, a Glass psychiatrist maintains that his patient suffered from arrested development prior to therapy. Witnesses aplenty testified to his moral fitness to work as an attorney, the pleading states, and substantial time has passed since the fabrications, during which Glass has confessed to his wrongdoing on national television (a 2003 60 Minutes segment, in which he promoted his novel) and has repeatedly stated that his journalism is not to be trusted.

Even if you’re supportive of Glass’s legal quest—as you might have guessed, I’m not—the unsealed documents sketch a cringeworthy picture of him. How many people would make the sort of confessions and excuses that Glass does in this case, just to gain admittance to the bar? Take for example, the passage in Judge Honn’s decision, in which he recounts another high school humiliation of Glass. In a footnote, Honn wrote:

As an example, applicant took a family life class in high school where the boys and girls were paired and assigned to be a “husband” and “wife” to study the development of an egg into a baby. Applicant’s partner was distressed to be assigned to applicant, and she complained to her parents, who in turn, complained to the teacher. The next day, the teacher continued the theme by having the marriage “annulled.” As one would imagine, this caused applicant to be ashamed and humiliated.

I don’t know what’s worse—that Glass’s side introduced these “facts” to create sympathy for him or that the judge appears to have bought them. As high school humiliations go, annulments of family life class marriages rate pretty low. Yet this isn’t the lowest grab for sympathy recorded in the court documents. In another footnote to his decision, Judge Honn writes:

Although applicant has recently established a relationship with his parents by setting boundaries in their interactions, his brother has had more difficulty doing so. In fact, despite his brother having a wife and two-year-old twins, his parents have not actually seen the grandchildren for more than approximately ten hours.

What sort of person would enlist the story of his brother’s estrangement from their parents as legal leverage in a civil proceeding? …

If it weren’t for the paper trail, this decade-long struggle to become an attorney, with all of its emotional striptease and maudlin confessions, might be mistaken for one more Stephen Glass fabrication. Maybe, when it’s all over, he’ll write about that.

Glass has an impressive character witness in Martin Peretz, the publisher of TNR, who suffered the most damage from Glass’ fabrications and who can rightly be called the most victimized single person in the scandal.  However, close behind that would be Glass’ former editor, Charles Lane (now of the Washington Post), who explained that Glass’ fabrications went far beyond the page itself:

Lane joked that people have always wondered which profession has lower ethical standards – law or journalism – and the Supreme Court is set to determine the answer when they hear Glass’ case. The court is basically in a position to figure out when Glass, a person who used to do nothing but lie, stopped lying, Lane said.

“My reaction was, ‘I can’t believe after 13 years this is all still going on,’” Lane said. “It’s an incredible saga.”

There has been a long list of character witnesses who’ve come forward on Glass’ behalf and testified that he’s a changed man who is now honest and straightforward, including two law professors and the owner of The New Republic.

Lane said that Glass’ whole way of life was false, and to really be an honest person he would have had to completely reconstruct himself.

He pointed out that Glass has never come completely clean about the total number of fabrications and lies he told at The New Republic and has minimized the extent of his deceptions in applying to the California Bar, a detail that was cited by a dissenting judge in the California State Bar case.

In the full interview, Lane says he’s not surprised to see character witnesses now support Glass, but says they’re saying the very same things he and his TNR colleagues would have said about Glass before his exposure.

Could Glass have found redemption?  It’s entirely possible.  Has he?  Others will know that more than I would, of course, but the record here doesn’t look promising.  Nocera says that the court shouldn’t destroy the rest of his life.  However, there are plenty of professions that Glass could have chosen that require less risk and trust than as a practicing attorney, and if the court doesn’t admit him to the bar, Glass will have plenty of opportunities to choose one.


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This Young man has a brigt future!

I can think of plenty organaizations where a person with his skill-set could find gainful employment as an attorney:

ACORN
The Obama Whitehouse
The EPA
The NAACP
TSA
Holder’s DOJ
GM

The future’s so bright – he has to wear shades!

Tim_CA on December 27, 2011 at 1:28 PM

He’s a crybaby and a liar who will throw anyone — including his family — under the bus to get what he wants. He’ll make a great lawyer.

Rational Thought on December 27, 2011 at 11:08 AM

+100!

TugboatPhil on December 27, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Everyone is a “liar” to one extent or another.

A very tiny handful of people are irredeemable sociopaths.

Don’t ever get those two things confused.

logis on December 27, 2011 at 1:23 PM

So who else here thinks that the irredeemable sociopaths are over-represented in the ranks of American lawyers?

gryphon202 on December 27, 2011 at 1:30 PM

So you counter my anecdotal evidence with more anecdotal evidence. Great. Would it perhaps give you pause to rethink the fact that the vast majority of congressional representatives and senators are career lawyers? Or is that just more “anecdotal evidence” to you?

gryphon202 on December 27, 2011 at 1:20 PM

That’s fine. But those who serve in Congress are still a tiny minority of the whole. Are there no lawyers you would celebrate? What about the attorneys who brought the D.C. vs Heller case?

NotCoach on December 27, 2011 at 1:30 PM

He can be redeemed to God. Not the bar, however. He’s out and should never get in.

SarahW on December 27, 2011 at 1:31 PM

That’s fine. But those who serve in Congress are still a tiny minority of the whole. Are there no lawyers you would celebrate? What about the attorneys who brought the D.C. vs Heller case?

NotCoach on December 27, 2011 at 1:30 PM

There are cases I would celebrate. DC versus Heller isn’t one of them. I don’t need a court case to tell me I can carry a gun — I have the first amendment. But I digress. Lawyers whose careers and lives I would celebrate? I’d have to think long and hard about that, and I could probably count them with fingers on one hand and have a couple left over.

gryphon202 on December 27, 2011 at 1:32 PM

There’s always the public sector as liars usually fit right in.

LizardLips on December 27, 2011 at 1:32 PM

gryphon202 on December 27, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Whoops. I meant the second amendment. Sometimes my brain and my typing fingers aren’t exactly in synch.

gryphon202 on December 27, 2011 at 1:33 PM

So who else here thinks that the irredeemable sociopaths are over-represented in the ranks of American lawyers?

gryphon202 on December 27, 2011 at 1:30 PM

LMAO – easy one!

*raises hand quickly*

Tim_CA on December 27, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Most lawyers are liars. He’ll do just fine.

IR-MN on December 27, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Hey! I frequently need to remind people that 99% of the lawyers out there give the other 1% of us a bad name.

acasilaco on December 27, 2011 at 1:52 PM

“Glass has an impressive character witness in Martin Peretz, … who can rightly be called the most victimized single person in the scandal.”

What qualifies him as “impressive”? Because he was fooled and suffered damages?
Magazine editors and the literati in general are notoriously bad character judges. To name a few: Buckley re Edgar Smith; Mailer re Jack Henry Abbott; most popular authors re Abu Mumia Jamal.

I think it’s pretty silly to expect any useful estimation of character to come from this group. And the Nocera piece is less about of Glass’ redemption and more about journalistic damage control.

kwh on December 27, 2011 at 2:03 PM

So who else here thinks that the irredeemable sociopaths are over-represented in the ranks of American lawyers?

gryphon202 on December 27, 2011 at 1:30 PM

*raises hand*

MisterElephant on December 27, 2011 at 2:05 PM

The purpose of the Bar and

MessesWithTexas on December 27, 2011 at 2:08 PM

The purpose of admission to the Bar is ostensibly to protect the public and to promote respect and confidence in the legal profession. Being an attorney is not a right, but a privilege. An attorney must have the best interests of his client foremost in his thoughts and actions. It seems to me that if Mr. Glass truly understood this, he would not be applying for admission to the Bar.

Any client Mr. Glass represented before a judge or jury who knows the Stephen Glass story would be at a serious disadvantage. I would certainly view any statement made by Mr. Glass with a great deal more skepticism than an attorney who was not a nationally infamous fabricator. The fact he his willing to place clients at such a disadvantage by representing them tells me he still really doesn’t understand the whole professional ethics thing.

MessesWithTexas on December 27, 2011 at 2:26 PM

Nope.

S. D. on December 27, 2011 at 2:27 PM

I say let him practice law. Most attorneys aren’t hire to achieve justice. Rather they are hired (and paid) to win. Truth is most often an accidental by-product of the campaign to win.

Also, no client could ever succcessfully sue him for malpractice because he could always say that the client knew that he was untrustworthy and therefore the client assumed the risk of his representation when he was retained.

So there’s that. Caveat emptor.

platypus on December 27, 2011 at 2:48 PM

I just find it amusing that he would go to these lengths to be an attorney. Every single attorney I know works too much, and spends at least some of those hours scheming on how to get out of the rat race.

If he needs dough and doesn’t mind working silly hours, shouldda gone for b-school and then i-banking.

JRCash on December 27, 2011 at 2:49 PM

HawaiiLwyr on December 27, 2011 at 11:13 AM

Give me a break, lawyers are paid to lie (or support untruths if you will…) you’re really right there next to used car salesmen. Yeah, I know stereotypes, no you all are not crooks, it’s just that so many of you are its hard to tell, and the bar does next to nothing to clean up their own swamp! Then on top of that most all the slimy politicians are lawyers, that just proves it :-)

cigarcamel on December 27, 2011 at 2:49 PM

logis on December 27, 2011 at 1:23 PM

No, everybody is not a “liar”–I would concede that every person has told a lie at some time in his life, but it is entirely possible for an adult to live by a policy of no lies, ever. I stopped telling even occasional lies (those supposedly for another person’s good) in my early 20s, because to lie is to deny the other person the power to make an informed choice. Lies are controlling, and I don’t want to control any person except myself. It is entirely possible and in fact, makes life much easier all around.

In the case of Mr. Glass here, it is hard to imagine anyone with a smidgen of conscience behaving as he did. Nocera can very breezily talk about Glass as a victim (“If the court turns him down, they will have ruined his life!”) knowing full well that he’ll never hire Glass. His line, “At one point, Glass said that the scandal was the worst thing that had ever happened to him” is very telling–the scandal didn’t “happen to” Glass–he earned every bit of it.

DrMagnolias on December 27, 2011 at 2:52 PM

Would it ever occur to an opposing counsel to try to impeach Glass in a courtroom?

Every court case this guy gets attached to will be charged with misconduct on his part. And his history will support an investigation.

No law firm, ‘cepting the Rose Law Firm…maybe, will hire this guy.

BobMbx on December 27, 2011 at 2:54 PM

Well, if he ever engages in malpractice once initiated into the California Bar, is the state supreme court not also liable for damages incurred through their ruling that states that one who is on the record as being a deeply unqualified and untrustworthy person can call himself a lawyer and invite clients?

Food for thought.

Also, that sentence was too long. I apologize.

mintycrys on December 27, 2011 at 2:56 PM

Tim_CA on December 27, 2011 at 1:28 PM

;-)

CorporatePiggy on December 27, 2011 at 3:01 PM

NotCoach on December 27, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Yeah right, like the government attorneys that were prosecuting Senator Ted Stevens of AK. They blatantly withheld evidence and I believe were held in contempt and the case dismissed. And our wonderful Attorney General Eric Holder did nothing to them. That is typical lawyers, IMHO.

cigarcamel on December 27, 2011 at 3:10 PM

It undercuts his “redemption” argument that he still blames everyone else, including his parents, for his problems.
The Cal. bar should not allow him a license.
He can use his legal knowledge as a paralegal, or find another line of work.

LASue on December 27, 2011 at 3:37 PM

It undercuts his “redemption” argument that he still blames everyone else, including his parents, for his problems.
The Cal. bar should not allow him a license.
He can use his legal knowledge as a paralegal, or find another line of work.

LASue on December 27, 2011 at 3:37 PM

The California Bar Association, like the Bar Associations of every state, is 100 percent for sale. It’s all about the dead presidents and anyone who claims otherwise is either lethally naive or lying to you.

The American legal system is not and never has been about Justice, in America we practice something called adversarial law, it’s not about Justice, it’s about winning and loosing. If you win, you get lots of money, if you loose, your client pays a shit load of money and still goes to jail.

Who wins and who loses is decided not on the evidence as TV shows like CSI would lead you to believe, but instead upon which legal team is the most persuasive.

SWalker on December 27, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Would you hire this man to be your lawyer?

Personally, I wouldn’t hire Stephen Glass to be my garbage collector’s assistant…much less a lawyer of any kind.

Wouldn’t attorneys who were confronted with an opponent represented by Glass book a near-automatic win???

landlines on December 27, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Never mind that he lied repeatedly in the stories he filed.

The fact that he’s damn near forty years old and STILL blames Mummy and Daddy and The Mean Kids in High School for all his problems should permanently disqualify him from any position requiring one to be a mature, competent adult.

The lying should just serve as supporting documentation.

Why doesn’t he go back to his first love, writing fiction? Maybe his first novel was too “truthy” to be interesting. He needs to pull the whole damn novel out of his @$$.

Maddie on December 27, 2011 at 4:38 PM

Mr. Glass is like ‘the relative who won’t leave, isn’t he? I remember when his story came rumbling down from the North Shore, snowballing through the Loop, exploding into the Hyde Park lakefront on Page 1 of the Trib & Sun Times. Local Boy Makes Bad.

Whole stories! Jackass Glass made up & reported whole stories as news. Those young Republicans partying (at C-Pac, was it?) in their hotel room with booze, whores, & mountains of cocaine? Bigfatlie. The 15 year old hacker who was squeezing big companies out of serious dough (and, IIRC, a lifetime Playboy subscription) to keep their computer systems safe? Bigfatlie.

Shattered Glass is still one of my favorite films. Quite instructive re: how the weasel got away with his shenanigans for so long. He positioned himself as New Republic’s house cat. Every woman in the place patted and “mothered” their barefoot office pet. Men felt envious around him cause Kitteh spun such superior yarns.

I really felt sorry for Editor Lane. He was the new boss, nobody liked him, and every time he got close to addressing the stink coming off Glass and his grand tales for the NR (humbly referred to as THE IN-FLIGHT MAGAZINE OF AIR FORCE ONE) House Kitty called a pity party by yowling, “Are you mad at me? Don’t be mad at me. He’s mad at me! I didn’t do anything wronnnnng!!”

Give him this much; the bum has chutzpah by the truckload. Liar/Lawyer? Hey, it worked for Barry Scheck, Johnny Cochran, Jose Baez, etc.

And yes, America loves a “Comeback Kid”. Still, I keep coming back to Shattered Glass where, interspersed throughout the film, he had been shown dropping pearls of wisdom on a class full of worshipful high school journalism students and their fawning teacher, back home. In the end it showed Steven Glass, alone, disgraced, making it all up again as he takes his bows in front of an empty classroom.

Sometimes, fading from memory is a good thing.

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on December 27, 2011 at 4:59 PM

He wants to be known as the greatest liar of all time. To people who have this personality tick, one of the things that motivates them is the same thing that motivates hackers: they find out what peoples’ “security holes” are, and exploit them. They see this as a kind of “service.” It’s like psychological hacking. This is why his made-up hacking story at TNR was so diabolically brilliant.

Also, for people like this, the ‘lure’ – getting people to trust you, especially after they already know you’ve burned them before – is almost a bigger high than the subsequent main lie itself.

WhatSlushfund on December 27, 2011 at 6:13 PM

Also, for people like this, the ‘lure’ – getting people to trust you, especially after they already know you’ve burned them before – is almost a bigger high than the subsequent main lie itself.

WhatSlushfund on December 27, 2011 at 6:13 PM

They live for the game – it’s what makes them happy. Anyone who has known a sociopathic liar instantly recognizes the type. Those spared this experience cannot make sense of it, and cannot believe they are being played. These people are not “fascinating”. They have no conscience and can therefore act in ways inexplicable to the normal person. (See Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door.) Perez and Bloch are fools.

Timeout on December 28, 2011 at 1:14 AM

I had no idea attorneys had such high standards. I don’t see him lowering their collective ethical rating one iota.

FineasFinn on December 28, 2011 at 8:47 AM

I’m a bit confused.

If his book came out in 2003, that means we’re now 8 years out from his failed attempt at admitted fiction and 13 years out from his successful attempts at fiction disguised as reality.

The bar can do what they want, but, it seems like they should rely on something more recent than something a 40 year old man did when he was 26.

If there’s evidence he hasn’t changed, by all means, take it all together and say he can’t be trusted.

If all you’ve got is misdeeds from 13 years and a belief that people can’t change (but no evidence that he’s still doing the same thing), move on.

JadeNYU on December 28, 2011 at 12:46 PM

I’m a bit confused.

If his book came out in 2003, that means we’re now 8 years out from his failed attempt at admitted fiction and 13 years out from his successful attempts at fiction disguised as reality.

The bar can do what they want, but, it seems like they should rely on something more recent than something a 40 year old man did when he was 26.

If there’s evidence he hasn’t changed, by all means, take it all together and say he can’t be trusted.

If all you’ve got is misdeeds from 13 years and a belief that people can’t change (but no evidence that he’s still doing the same thing), move on.

JadeNYU on December 28, 2011 at 12:46 PM

There is no “burden of proof” for admission into the bar. The folks that make those decisions in each state do so in a completely plenary manner. Thus, it is incumbent on them not to tarnish their image by admitting someone with a less-than-stellar public reputation. You seem to be assuming that there is a question as to whether there is standing for a judge to decide if the decision was made properly or improperly, a premise which I would personally reject out-of-hand.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2011 at 2:38 PM

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