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Court to decide whether ex-journalist Stephen Glass can practice law

SAN FRANCISCO--Stephen R. Glass, a former journalist who became infamous for fabricating magazine articles, will learn Monday whether the California Supreme Court believes he possesses the necessary moral character to practice law.

The state high court is expected to issue its long-awaited ruling on whether Glass, dubbed a “serial liar” by state bar officials, has demonstrated sufficient rehabilitation to deserve a law license. During a hearing in November, the justices appeared overwhelmingly opposed to admitting Glass to the California bar.

Glass, 41, was in his 20s when he fabricated 42 articles for the New Republic, Rolling Stone and other magazines before being caught in 1998. A movie, “Shattered Glass,” was made about his exploits, and he wrote a novel based on them.

After the New Republic fired him, Glass  moved for a while to his parents’ home near Chicago and struggled with suicidal impulses. He hired a lawyer to deal with the magazines that had published his fraudulent stories and eventually wrote apologies to his former editors and the people and companies his articles disparaged.

Although Glass obtained a law degree from Georgetown Law School and passed the bar examinations in both New York and California, he has been unable to get a law license because of questions about his character.

The California bar found him morally unfit in 2009, a decision he challenged during a confidential, 10-day bar trial, in which colleagues, friends, employers and his psychiatrists testified.

The bar judge sided with Glass, and a review panel decided 2-1 to uphold that decision. A committee of bar examiners responsible for admissions then asked the California Supreme Court to deny him a license.

The bar examiners called Glass “a pervasive and documented liar” who tainted journalism and waited years to make a full disclosure of all the articles he concocted. His published stories blistered his subjects, and Glass made up phony notes, business cards, a website and voice mails to cover his tracks.

But his supporters, including his current employer, said he has changed. They said he has demonstrated consistent honesty and high ethics since his downfall and would be a sterling lawyer.

One of his psychiatrists likened his past misconduct to compulsive gambling. Glass said he fabricated because he wanted his editor “to love me, like I wanted my father to love me.” Glass described growing up with parents who pushed him relentlessly to succeed and insisted he go to medical school even though he was not cut out to be a doctor.

Glass has worked as a paralegal for a Los Angeles personal injury firm since 2004 and has been in a long-term relationship with a woman, who is both a writer and attorney.

He drafts complex legal motions, advises on strategy and meets with clients, but his inability to get a law license requires that all his work be closely supervised by a licensed attorney.

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Twitter:@mauradolan

maura.dolan@latimes.com

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