Disgraced ex-journalist Stephen Glass' dream of becoming a California lawyer has been shattered, at least for the foreseeable future.

The California Supreme Court on Monday rejected Glass' bid to secure a State Bar license, concluding he has not overcome the stain of his infamous past as a journalist who fabricated stories for prominent publications in the late 1990s.

Glass has been pursuing a law license for years, arguing that he deserves a second chance in a new profession after his much-publicized fall for concocting bogus accounts for magazines such as the New Republic and Rolling Stone. Glass' journalistic exploits led to a book and a movie, "Shattered Glass."

Stephen Glass during a "60 Minutes" interview in 2003
Stephen Glass during a "60 Minutes" interview in 2003 (AP Photo/CBS News)

The Supreme Court sided with the State Bar, which opposed his fitness to be a lawyer in California by arguing that he does not meet the "moral character" standards required of lawyers. The state's highest court in the process rejected the findings of two State Bar court decisions that sided with Glass' right to a license.

"(Glass) has not sustained his heavy burden of demonstrating rehabilitation and fitness for the practice of law," the court said in a unanimous ruling.

Glass, through his lawyer, declined to comment. He can reapply for a law license in three years but will have to overcome the Supreme Court's scathing critique of his past in the ruling, which questioned his honesty in the State Bar proceedings.


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Jon Eisenberg, Glass' attorney, declined to say whether his client would resume his bid to become a lawyer.

"Mr. Glass appreciates the court's consideration of his application and respects the court's decision," Eisenberg said.

Glass' bid to become a lawyer attracted widespread attention, dividing legal ethicists in a test over what a Bar candidate must do to overcome a sordid past. In court papers, Glass insisted he was a changed man, the result of years of therapy and other self-improvements since he had to admit fabricating material in national stories, such as a George magazine profile of Vernon Jordan, a close friend of former President Bill Clinton.

Glass, who now lives in a Los Angeles suburb and is a paralegal at a law firm, garnered strong support for his cause from a host of prominent legal scholars and some judges who vouched for his reformation. He even drew backing in the case from Martin Peretz, former editor-in-chief of the New Republic, despite the fact the scandal hit his magazine hardest.

But State Bar lawyers argued that Glass had not done enough to repent for journalistic sins that "tarnished the entire journalism profession," and they questioned his sincerity about changing his ways. They noted that concerns about Glass' character kept him from being admitted to the New York Bar in 2004.

The Supreme Court agreed, questioning Glass' sincerity and observing that his conduct "seemed to have been directed primarily at advancing his own well-being rather than returning something to the community."

In a statement, State Bar President Luis Rodriguez said the ruling "vindicates the idea that honesty is of paramount importance in the practice of law in California."

Legal experts predicted Glass would have an uphill fight in the Supreme Court, particularly given his notoriety. Richard Zitrin, a Hastings College of the Law professor, said Glass may not have attracted Bar opposition if he were an ordinary applicant.

"I have no trouble with the Supreme Court saying we're not convinced about this guy and we have a duty to protect the public," Zitrin said. "My concern rests ... with the State Bar's lack of evenhandedness in the way it deals with high-publicity and regular cases. It shouldn't matter if the applicant is famous, notorious or unknown."

Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.

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Read the state Supreme Court's reasons for denying disgraced journalist permission to practice law at www.mercurynews.com/extra.