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In re Glass

Supreme Court of California

January 27, 2014

In re Stephen Randall GLASS on Admission.

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[167 Cal.Rptr.3d 89] Law Offices of Michael A. Willemsen, Michael A. Willemsen, Mountain View; Eisenberg & Hancock, Jon B. Eisenberg, Oakland, William N. Hancock, San Francisco; Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland, Kent L. Richland, Los Angeles; Margolis & Margolis, Los Angeles, Susan L. Margolis and Arthur L. Margolis for Applicant Stephen Randall Glass.

Aaron Nathan Shechet and Leigh Anne Chandler, Beverly Hills, as Amici Curiae on behalf of Applicant Stephen Randall Glass.

Starr Babcock, Richard J. Zanassi, San Francisco, Rachel Grunberg; and Brandon Tady for Petitioner Committee of Bar Examiners of The State Bar of California.

Robert D. McMahon as Amicus Curiae.

THE COURT.[*]

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[316 P.3d 1201] Stephen Randall Glass made himself infamous as a dishonest journalist by fabricating material for more than 40 articles for The New Republic magazine and other publications. He also carefully fabricated supporting materials to delude The New Republic's fact checkers. The articles appeared between June 1996 and May 1998, and included falsehoods that reflected negatively on individuals, political groups, and ethnic minorities. During the same period, starting in September 1997, he was also an evening law student at Georgetown University's law school. Glass made every effort to avoid detection once suspicions were aroused, lobbied strenuously to keep his job at The New [316 P.3d 1202] Republic, and, in the aftermath of his exposure, did not fully cooperate with the publications to identify his fabrications.

Glass applied to become a member of the New York bar in 2002, but withdrew his application after he was informally notified in 2004 that his moral character application would be rejected. In the New York bar application materials, he exaggerated [167 Cal.Rptr.3d 90] his cooperation with the journals that had published his work and failed to supply a complete list of the fabricated articles that had injured others.

Glass passed the California bar examination in 2006 and filed an application for determination of moral character in 2007. It was not until the California State Bar moral character proceedings that Glass reviewed all of his articles, as well as the editorials The New Republic and other journals published to identify his fabrications, and ultimately identified fabrications

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that he previously had denied or failed to disclose. In the California proceedings, Glass was not forthright in acknowledging the defects in his New York bar application.

At the 2010 State Bar Court hearing resulting in the decision under review, Glass presented many character witnesses and introduced evidence regarding his lengthy course of psychotherapy, along with his own testimony and other evidence. Many of his efforts from the time of his exposure in 1998 until the 2010 hearing, however, seem to have been directed primarily at advancing his own well-being rather than returning something to the community. His evidence did not establish that he engaged in truly exemplary conduct over an extended period. We conclude that on this record he has not sustained his heavy burden of demonstrating rehabilitation and fitness for the practice of law.

I. FACTS

A. Committee of Bar Examiners' evidence

Stephen Glass was born in September 1972, in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. After early success as a journalist in college and a developing interest in the law, in 1994 Glass was admitted to New York University Law School but deferred his intended legal training to accept a position in Washington, D.C. with Policy Review magazine.

In September 1995 Glass accepted a position at The New Republic magazine. In early June 1996 he began fabricating material for publication. The fabrications continued and became bolder and more comprehensive until he was exposed and fired in May 1998.

Glass's fabrications began when an article entitled The Hall Monitor was published containing a fabricated quotation from an unnamed source disparaging United States Representative Pete Hoekstra for behaving in Congress like an elementary school " super hall monitor." He started by fabricating quotations or sources, and ended by publishing wholesale fictions. He testified that " all but a handful" of the 42 articles he published in The New Republic contained fabrications or were entirely fabricated. He also routinely prepared elaborate reporter's notes and supporting materials to give the false impression to the magazine's fact checkers that he had done all the background work for each article and that his informants had spoken words he falsely attributed to them.

Glass testified at the State Bar Court hearing that he " wrote nasty, mean-spirited, horrible" things about people: " My articles hurt, and they were

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cruel...." He testified that the fabrications gave him " A-plus" stories that afforded him status in staff meetings and also gave particular enjoyment to his colleagues. He said: " Overwhelmingly, what everyone remembers about my pieces are the fake things."

A notable 1996 article was entitled Taxis and the Meaning of Work. It was Glass's first cover article and one he viewed as " key" to his successful period of writing for The New Republic. Its theme was [167 Cal.Rptr.3d 91] that Americans, and in particular, African-Americans, were no longer willing to work hard or to take on employment they consider menial. [316 P.3d 1203] The article falsely recounted as factual a supposed encounter between Glass and three entirely fabricated characters, one a limousine driver, one a taxi cab driver, and one a criminal. The limousine driver was depicted as an African-American man who had driven a cab at one time, but now drove a limousine instead because he was " sick of those curry people" and found that limousines attracted beautiful women, or, in the purported words of the driver, gave him " the woo quotient." The author went on to say that he had been permitted to ride along for journalistic purposes with a taxi driver of Middle Eastern descent. The article recounted that the driver stopped for a young African-American passenger— " the type of fare Imran would normally refuse" but felt he had to accept because of nearby police observation. The article describes the pounding music audible from the young fare's headphones, and claims that as they neared his destination, the young African-American man threatened the driver with a knife, hurled coarse abuse at him, and took his wallet. According to the article: " ‘ These things happen,’ Imran said coldly on the drive back downtown. ‘ I give them whatever they want. I just want my life.’ "

Spring Breakdown, published in March 1997, was another example of Glass's fabrications. The theme of the article was that young, conservative Republicans had given up on electoral politics and had turned to drugs and sex. Glass invented a fictional group of male college students attending the Conservative Political Action Conference. To convey the young men's view that conservatives had lost their direction, he attributed to one of them the comment that conservatives were " ‘ like a guy who has to pee lost in the desert, searching for a tree.’ " Glass described the young men using marijuana for an hour, then embarking on a search for a young woman to humiliate. The plan was " to choose the ugliest and loneliest they can find," a person the young men described as " a real heifer, the fatter the better, bad acne," for a few of them to lure to their hotel room and persuade to undress. At that point, the remaining men would emerge from under the bed, shout " ‘ we're beaching. Whale spotted!’ " and photograph the woman. After turning to a discussion of asserted losses in popularity experienced by the conservative movement, the article went on to recount the execution of the plot described above. It asserted that a woman in fact emerged from the

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young men's room unclothed and in tears, while the perpetrators congratulated each other. The article went on: " This repellent scene was only a little beyond the norm of the conference. A wash of despair and alcohol and brutishness hung over the whole thing." More examples of drug use ensued, along with examples of shameless sexual behavior. All of this was fabricated.

In another article, entitled Deliverance, published in November 1996, Glass recounted receiving unsatisfactory service from a named computer company, and claimed that his complaints to a telephone customer service representative were met with an anti-Semitic slur. In truth, no such slur ever was uttered. Glass also wrote a letter to the president of the company, repeating the accusation, and sent a copy to the Anti-Defamation League.

Glass also engaged in fabrications in freelance articles published by other magazines. An example was Prophets and Losses, an article published in Harper's Magazine in February 1998, at which time Glass was also a law student. In that article, Glass represented that he had [167 Cal.Rptr.3d 92] worked for a telephone psychic service for a time, and recounted fabricated conversations with management, represented as mercenary and either stupid or cynical, and also fabricated conversations with callers, who were depicted as ignorant and desperate. In one case a caller, a fabricated character to whom Glass had attributed an African-American dialect, could not be persuaded to use his money to feed and clothe his seven children by five different mothers instead of buying VCRs and calling telephone psychics for advice on lottery numbers. The article was almost entirely a fabrication. Glass explained at the hearing that [316 P.3d 1204] his intent was to expose " how the telephone psychic industry preys on minorities.... It uses minority celebrities to advertise and shows that are watched predominantly by minorities to lure them into paying insane amounts of money. [ΒΆ] I was angry about that, and I wanted to attack that, and I used terrible, horrible stereotypes to create, essentially, straw men to knock down."

In another example, Glass wrote an article entitled The Vernon Question for George magazine. The lengthy article, published in April 1998, concerned Vernon Jordan, an advisor to then-President Clinton during the then-emerging Monica Lewinsky scandal. In two paragraphs, Glass used nonexistent sources to describe Jordan's supposed reputation as a " boor" and attributed various fictitious statements to " political operatives," " socialites," " political hostesses" and officials. These persons assertedly stated that Jordan was well known for sexually explicit comments, unwanted sexual advances, and crude stares, and added that he was known in their circles as " Vern the Worm" or " Pussyman," and that young women needed protection against him. Another paragraph attributed to a fictional " watchdog" group contained certain claims about Jordan's asserted conflicts of interest and questionable corporate ethics

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along with statements attributed to fictional " senior officials" at companies on whose boards Jordan sat, saying that Jordan is " totally unaware of the issues" but " we get what we want, access, and he gets what he wants, cash." These were all fabrications.

Charles Lane, who was the editor of The New Republic at the time of Glass's exposure, testified for the Committee of Bar Examiners (hereafter sometimes Committee) that he had received an early complaint about Glass concerning an article entitled Boys on the Bus, depicting the actor Alec Baldwin and his brother as silly celebrities whose efforts during a bus tour to campaign on the issue of campaign finance reform were based on ignorance. A representative of Baldwin's disputed the assertion in the article that the actor had been giving out autographs during the bus tour, but Glass repudiated the accusation in print in The New Republic. It wasn't until Glass prepared his application to the California State Bar that he acknowledged that this article contained fabricated evidence to the effect that interest in the bus tour came from movie fans seeking autographs and referred to a fabricated person who opined that Baldwin lacked real understanding of campaign finance reform.

Although at the time, the Boys on the Bus incident seemingly was resolved in Glass's favor, Lane's suspicions were aroused in May 1998 when a journalist employed by Forbes Digital Tool telephoned to warn him that factual assertions in Glass's recent article for George magazine, Hack Heaven, did not seem to be true. The article had described a teenager hacking a California software company and extorting money to stop the intrusion. The article described a convention in Bethesda, Maryland where some of the events occurred, and when Lane challenged Glass, the latter journeyed with [167 Cal.Rptr.3d 93] Lane to Bethesda, purporting to identify the building where the convention had been held. A person working in the building denied such a convention had occurred, and Lane became persuaded that Glass was lying. Lane pressed Glass about the factual basis for the article, and although Glass was evasive, he insisted the article was accurate. Glass spent the night at home fabricating what he would assert were his reporter's notes from interviews, fake business cards, a voicemail box, a Web site, and newsletters. He also induced his brother to impersonate a source.

Upon their return to the office from Bethesda, Glass lobbied the executive editor and others to intervene on his behalf with Lane, urging that he was being treated unfairly. Lane, now suspecting that other fabrications may have occurred, wanted to fire him, but in response to the lobbying, suspended him. The next day, a Saturday, Lane was surprised to discover Glass at the office. Thinking Glass had been told not to return, Lane suspected he had altered his computer files. He confronted Glass with evidence that Glass had used his

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brother as a false source in the Hack Heaven piece. Ultimately, [316 P.3d 1205] during this exchange Glass admitted the article was fabricated, and Lane fired him. Lane found on Glass's desk a letter Glass had written to his landlord, falsely stating he had been transferred by The New Republic to New York, and needed his security deposit refunded. Lane also found the letter Glass had written to the chief executive of Gateway computers, again stating the falsehood that a customer service employee had used an anti-Semitic slur against Glass.

Lane reviewed all of Glass's articles over the course of the following three or four weeks. He received a letter from Glass apologizing and saying he had instructed his lawyers to cooperate with The New Republic. Lane compiled a summary of the material in Glass's articles that he found suspicious and submitted the summary to Glass's counsel, who it was agreed would stipulate to those findings of Lane's that Glass believed to be correct. At the time, Lane concluded that 27 of the 42 articles Glass had written for the magazine contained fabrications, and Lane wrote two editorial articles informing the magazine's readership to this effect.

Lane was very surprised to learn for the first time in the California State Bar proceeding that there were four articles Glass identified in his California bar application as fabrications that he, Lane, had not even suspected were flawed. Lane was also surprised that four of the articles he had identified to Glass's counsel as suspicious, but which Glass had declined to stipulate contained fabrications, were now admitted in the California State Bar application to involve fabrications— including the disturbing Taxis and the Meaning of Work, along with Deliverance, with its false claim of anti-Semitism, and Boys on the Bus, which had involved the magazine in a dispute over authenticity even before Glass's exposure.

Lane testified that he thought Glass had perpetrated an elaborate hoax on readers and was engaged in a con game, not journalism. He testified that Glass's case had been highlighted at the Newseum, a Washington D.C. museum of journalism, as one of the worst examples of misconduct in journalistic history. Lane noted that The New Republic was put to the expense of hiring a private investigator to analyze Glass's articles and incurred legal fees in the tens of thousands of dollars. He testified that Glass had not offered him reimbursement for the magazine's expenses, nor did he offer to refund any portion of the salary he had been paid. Lane added that the fabrications hurt the magazine's [167 Cal.Rptr.3d 94] reputation, relationships between employees, and of course hurt those maligned in the articles. Lane was not mollified by ...


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