Sampson (pictured above, testifying before Congress) and his lawyers clashed for two years with the D.C. court system's Committee on Admissions. Members of the committee opposed admitting Sampson to the D.C. Bar while he was caught up in investigations related to his time at the Justice Department, including a criminal inquiry into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.
He was admitted to the D.C. Bar on Dec. 6, according to the D.C. Bar’s online records, in a decision that has not been previously reported. He had been a member of the Utah Bar, and his new admission allows him to practice law permanently in Washington.
Mark Carlin, chairman of the Committee on Admissions, said today that Sampson’s admission “was entirely a committee decision.” He declined to describe how the committee came to reverse course, saying he would not discuss internal deliberations.
In 2009, also under Carlin, the Committee on Admissions unanimously recommended against granting Sampson a temporary license. It said there was an “obvious ‘cloud’ over Sampson’s moral character” after Justice Department internal watchdogs concluded that he violated federal law and misled Congress and the White House.
Sampson, with the help of a team from Sidley Austin, persuaded the D.C. Court of Appeals to grant him the temporary license in May 2009, allowing him to practice under the supervision of another lawyer. In June 2010, DOJ special prosecutor Nora Dannehy determined there should be no criminal charges regarding the U.S. attorney firings.
“When Ms. Dannehy concluded her investigation without any charges against Mr. Sampson, we brought that fact to the attention of the Committee,” Sidley Austin partner George Jones Jr., one of Sampson’s lawyers, wrote in an e-mail today. “In our view, at that point, there was no basis for the Committee to decline to act on the application on the merits. We presume the Committee agreed, and approved the application in accordance with generally applicable standards.”
Sampson, a partner in the food and drug practice at Hunton & Williams, did not return messages this morning requesting comment. Word of Sampson’s admission comes as three other Hunton & Williams partners face a bar ethics complaint for their work investigating liberal activists, as described in leaked e-mails.
Updated at 2:35 p.m. with additional reporting. National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi