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.