Rebecca Nitkin was a friend of mine and a professional contact. I was struck and saddened, as I’m sure most others were, by the news of her sudden passing. She was quite a character and I have described her as “adorably crazy” – crazy being defined as hyper-passionate and afraid of almost nothing. While she was not popular with everyone, I am not afraid to say that I was quite fond of her.
She was interesting. She was brave. I didn’t agree with her on everything and certainly didn’t think everything she did was a good idea, but she had a good heart and was not going to be molded by this world. She was going to be Rebecca, whether the world liked her or not. I think her outfits and shoes could be their own “Some Lawyers Actually Wore” exhibit at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
On more than one occasion I asked myself: how do all of the innocent defendants know to end up at Rebecca’s office? I’m not sure she would have acknowledged ever having had a single guilty client. That’s commitment!
I like to tell a story sometimes that I think is a perfect answer to the question “who was Rebecca Nitkin?”. We operate an investigative agency in Rockville, and there was a time when she retained our office to conduct an investigation relating to a client of hers who was being accused of a criminal act relating to a police officer victim. I accepted the case and set forth to find the facts. My efforts included interviews, canvassing the area of the incident looking for security camera footage inside and outside of stores and businesses, and disassembling the door of a vehicle driven by Rebecca’s client at the time of the incident.
I was successful at obtaining surveillance videos from an interior camera of a pet store nearby from which part of the event location could be seen. In disassembling part of the client’s vehicle, I also obtained relevant and compelling evidence for the actual course of events. Along with other information uncovered in the investigation, these findings amounted to a body of evidence, which showed beyond any doubt that – contrary to our client’s assertions – her client was, in fact, guilty as charged.
I met with Rebecca and presented her with my findings, to which she responded “get out, and take your file with you”. I answered her with a smile, told her that I understand, and wished her luck with the case. As a side note, I was not upset about her reaction and had expected nothing else from her. Nothing in our local legal theater ruffles me much these days, and I knew full well what posture the information I had for her would prompt. My role is that of a fact finder; that’s how I see it anyway. So I brought her the facts. I knew what her perspective would be, but I also knew she was very intelligent and there was no denying the facts we had uncovered, so it was safe to assume she would eventually reach out to the state attorney and they would come up with a deal. I could rest assured that my work will have played its proper role, and I could be happy with that.
But this was Rebecca Nitkin, the one and only never to be underestimated Rebecca Nitkin. To make a long story short, she did not make a deal. She took the case to trial, offering a ‘not guilty’ plea, and she won. The court found her client not guilty. Police were stunned, her client was ecstatic, and I just could not help but smile.
Over the last 30 years of working in this industry, I have fallen asleep in the courtroom more times than I can possibly count. But one thing is for sure: Whether you liked Rebecca or not, if she was in the courtroom, you were unlikely to be falling asleep. I will miss her, and the sheriffs will be kicking me to wake me up more often now; but that’s okay, because I will think of her and smile each and every time.