Character & Fitness — the case of Stephen Glass

US Supreme Court - Lady JusticeIn Books, Crooks & Counselors, I wrote about the “Character and Fitness” review required of every applicant for admission to the state bar. NPR reports on the case of disgraced journalist Stephen Glass — the subject of the movie “Shattered Glass,” he admits fabricating all or part of more than 40 articles for The New Republic, Rolling Stone, Harpers, and other magazines. Glass is now seeking admission to the California bar. (New York turned him down several years ago.)

“The question is not whether he was a liar 15 years ago. We know he was. The question is, is he a liar today? And the record demonstrates as well as any record could ever demonstrate that he is not a liar today,” NPR quotes Glass’s lawyer, Jon Eisenberg, telling the California Supreme Court.

Rehabbed, repentant, or unreformed reprobate? I expect that the California Supreme Court — the final decision-maker on all issues involving admission to the bar, and on lawyer discipline — will conclude that its obligation to protect the public outweighs the evidence of rehabilitation, and turn Glass down. It’s hard enough to police the profession; why let someone in with this history, someone you know you’ll have to watch?

Fiction writers, how can you use with a character like that?

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