No Lying Allowed

One of my top 10 favorite movies of all time is Shattered Glass, about a charismatic gifted writer who worked his way up to the top, writing for one of the most prestigious periodicals in the world, the problem was that he made most of his stories up, they weren’t true, all fiction. At the end credits we learn that Stephen Glass was fired but decided to go to law school. While some movies take creative license and either embellish or edit, looking at his wiki page, it was amazing how the movie absolutely nailed it, how he got away with it so long but then one loose thread unraveled, investigative reporters looked into the inconsistencies, the lengths, the machinations he created to cover his tracks, and the magazine’s ultimate collapse in the end.

Fast forward a few days ago where I read this;

In 1998, Stephen Glass was all but banished from the profession of journalism. On Monday, the California Supreme Court ruled that he was not welcome as a lawyer, either.

More than 15 years after the revelation that Mr. Glass, then an ambitious 25-year-old writer, had partly or wholly fabricated dozens of articles for The New Republic and other magazines, the high court denied his request to practice law in the state.

“The applicant failed to carry his heavy burden of establishing his rehabilitation and current fitness,” the court said in a unanimous decision.

He tried to get a law degree in New York as well, also denied.

A few things struck me as odd. First off, since when do lawyers have to be honest to practice law? Having spent a few decades in probably around 100 trials over the years, many of them felony cases, I know (or knew) my way around a courtroom. It was my experience that many lawyers were not honest, meaning that they would lie regularly in court. They are never under oath and are bound by their profession to do whatever it takes to get their client off (or if they were prosecuting, to get him convicted) but their veracity was never an issue.

The court made a big production out of the fact that Glass “failed to carry his heavy burden of establishing his rehabilitation and current fitness”, that the motivation behind his application appeared to be for his own aggrandizement and that he did not do enough to return something to his community. All this seems crazy odd to me. His writings were fabricated, he got found out and he was fired. He decides to try a new profession and goes in to law, why this hurdle, which only he has to navigate, to prove contrition, to give something back to the community, to prostrate himself before the court with ,”Gosh, I’m really sorry, I’m a changed man and will never lie again”? Many people go to law school, many of those got fired or quit from whatever they were doing and decided to change gears, this phony fitness test is not part of the standard protocols for getting a law degree.

And lastly, where is that American trait of compassion that we grant people who want a fresh start? Much like a convict who did his time and now is out, he deserves a clean slate, Glass got fired for what he did and was barred for life from ever making a living in journalism, a pretty stiff sentence if you ask me. He earned a law degree, magna cum laude, at Georgetown University Law Center, he passed the bar both in NY and California. He is asking for a fresh start, to be a productive citizen and to earn a living in a profession where honestly is not all that important anyway. I say give the kid a chance.

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  1. Xetrov

    One of my top 10 favorite movies of all time is Shattered Glass…

    Why is Anakin Skywalker pretending to be a writer?

    ;-)

    I’ll give it a watch, thanks for the tip.

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  2. Seattle Outcast

    Normally I’d say the irony is astounding, but lawyers do more than lie constantly, and even then those lies end up costing people their lives, freedom, and life savings (and that’s just congress!). Do we really want someone that already showed a reckless disregard for a profession that supposedly holds the truth paramount embarking on another career where holding close to reality is a requirement?

    Other than going to school and earning a degree, what assurances are there that he’s rehabilitated? I don’t see stories telling what he’s done in that regard, and while that may be because the industry hates him, the more likely version is that he’s done next to nothing.

    I’ll put it this way, regardless of what his next career choice is, if his resume came across my desk I’d never consider him for any job where personal integrity was an issue.

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  3. richtaylor365 *

    Other than going to school and earning a degree, what assurances are there that he’s rehabilitated?

    Why does he need to give assurances? It’s not like he is on some kind of sex offender registry where he is required to divulge this info. to all prospective employers. He got fired for cause like many people, if Glass can convince his employer that he would be a valuable asset to the firm, why can’t the employer do his own due diligence and decide for himself whether he wants to give this guy a chance or not.

    He may be rehabilitated, or he may not, but there are very few jobs out there where you have to vouch for your honesty up front. While at The New Republic he lost his job for lying, a big loss considering that journalism was his first love. He has now devoted massive amount of effort to get a law degree, would not a reasonable person assume that he learned his lesson and will not risk this job by doing the same thing?

    I’ll put it this way, regardless of what his next career choice is, if his resume came across my desk I’d never consider him for any job where personal integrity was an issue.

    Good for you, but someone else might feel differently, might feel that after talking with Glass that he is worth the risk. The problem is that neither he, the employer, or you will get that chance because Glass cannot get a license to practice law, and he should.

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  4. Seattle Outcast

    would not a reasonable person assume that he learned his lesson and will not risk this job by doing the same thing?

    No

    People don’t tend to change their core being easily. “Moved on” is not the same thing as “learned a lesson”

    He’s a known, proven, serial liar that went to great lengths to provide covers for entirely fictional stories he wrote. He did this routinely and for years – he now has a burden of proof upon him to show that even recognizes what he did was wrong and to make amends. Until then he’s just another corrupt asshole that skipped becoming a politician, not someone that anybody should trust with anything.

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