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Columns

February 10, 2014

LYONS: Stephen Glass doesn't serve another chance

“I said there was a Society of Men among us, bred up from their Youth in the Art of proving by words multiplied for the Purpose, that White is Black, and Black is White, according as they are paid. To this Society all the rest of the People are Slaves.”

— Lemuel Gulliver explains lawyersfrom Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels,” 1726

Everybody hates the other guy’s lawyer, so the news that serial fabricator Stephen Glass was denied a license to practice law by the California Supreme Court has unsettled certain of his former colleagues in Washington journalism.

Slate.com editor David Plotz characterized the court’s 35-page decision as “smug, self-righteous,” “snobbish,” “bizarre and backward.” A former colleague and friend at The New Republic, where Glass published many of his fabricated hit pieces disguised as journalism, Plotz writes that Glass lied to him almost every time they spoke.

In his dreadful novel “The Fabulist,” Plotz writes, Glass portrayed a character clearly based on his wife, Hanna Rosin, as “conniving, sleazy, and disloyal, and the Hanna-like character’s husband as even worse.” Somebody who did that to my wife would be well advised to avoid me.

Even so, Plotz now finds it incomprehensible that his one-time deceiver would be shunned by a bunch of lawyers. Lawyers! Who do they think they are? He credits the character witnesses and psychotherapists who testified that the man has reformed since his disgraceful exit from journalism.

And after all, he concludes, “Law isn’t holy orders. It’s a job.”

To reach this conclusion, Plotz actually argues that Glass’ well-earned reputation as “a liar and a fraud” all but guarantees he’ll be honest and circumspect as an attorney. “Glass is far less likely than most lawyers to try to sneak something past a judge, because he’ll know that every single word he speaks and document he signs is suspect.”

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