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D.C. Court Comes Through for Kyle Sampson


D. Kyle Sampson, sometimes referred to as Karl Rove’s “Mini-Me,” was Alberto Gonzales’s chief of staff when the U.S. attorneys scandal broke. He found himself at its epicenter and resigned from the Justice Department. Now his name figures prominently in a special prosecutor’s examination of the scandal.

How does all this affect Sampson’s future as a lawyer in Washington? At first it was a major problem: The D.C. Bar saw a “cloud” over his “moral character,” particularly as it evaluates an internal Justice Department probe, which concluded that Sampson misled Congress and the White House, and as it awaits special prosecutor Nora Dannehy’s decision as to whether charges will be brought. It declined to allow Sampson, who is licensed to practice in Utah, a waiver to practice in the District of Columbia. Since Sampson has become a partner in the Washington office of Hunton & Williams, that would, you expect, put a severe cramp in his style.

However, a phalanx of conservative lawyers and others came to Sampson’s assistance, supporting his petition to the D.C. Court of Appeals to overturn the Bar Admissions Committee’s decision. Portraying Sampson as an unlikely hero in the U.S. attorneys scandal, they scored a resounding success. The National Law Journal reports:

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals quietly granted a rare waiver this spring to allow D. Kyle Sampson to continue practicing law, despite an ongoing criminal investigation into politicized hiring and firing decisions at the U.S. Department of Justice while Sampson was chief of staff to the attorney general. Sampson, who left the department in March 2007, was a key figure in scandals that spurred numerous congressional, internal and criminal probes and that ultimately led to the resignation of several top officials, including his boss, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Sampson, who has a Utah law license, joined Hunton & Williams as a partner in the firm’s Washington office in October 2007 and applied for membership to the D.C. Bar.

But after the Justice Department’s internal watchdogs concluded that Sampson violated federal law and misled Congress and the White House, the D.C. Committee on Admissions refused to approve his bar application, according to court filings.

The Court offered no written justification for its opinion. But it’s a fair inference that the judges, who are appointed through a process that centers on the Justice Department, feel that making misleading statements to Congress and playing a key role in the politicization of the Justice Department is all just blood sport for Washington lawyers—nothing to get too worked up about. Their decision will certainly contribute to the D.C. bar’s quite distinct sense of professional ethics.

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