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A protracted battle between a Department of Justice official and the D.C. Bar came to a close this month when the bar agreed to retroactively reinstate Michael Sitcov, whose law license was suspended in 2002 for failing to pay his dues. The decision came more than a year and a half after Sitcov’s attorney, Sally Gere of Ross, Dixon & Bell, sued the bar in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing that the bar should wipe the suspension from its records. In his complaint, Sitcov, an assistant director in the federal programs branch of the DOJ’s Civil Division, said such a result was the only way for him not to face retribution from Justice for practicing law without a license. “I am glad that my professional reputation has been restored,” Sitcov said in a statement to the court. Sitcov, who had been a member of the bar in good standing since April 1980, challenged the suspension, claiming he did not learn about it until the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility told him in November 2004. Sitcov immediately paid the dues and was reinstated. But the bar refused to erase the two-year suspension period from its records, despite protests from eight former bar presidents that it do so. Early on, one part of Sitcov’s case was heard by the D.C. Court of Appeals, which ruled against the government lawyer. Yet after months of mediation with D.C. lawyer Nancy Lesser — not to mention a change in leadership of the mandatory bar association — the bar reversed its decision. On Oct. 10, the D.C. Bar’s Board of Governors approved a resolution reinstating Sitcov retroactively. As part of its settlement with Sitcov, the bar also agreed to review how other attorneys are notified about suspensions, which may lead to changes in how that happens. Bar spokeswoman Cynthia Kuhn says that although “no mistake has been found on the bar’s part,” the organization decided to “settle the matter and avoid what might have been years of litigation.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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