ROCKVILLE – Rebecca Nitkin, a local defense attorney nationally known for her work on civil rights cases, died Thursday. She was 56.
According to her law partner Nancy Forrester, Nitkin suffered from internal bleeding and died during surgery at Holy Cross Hospital.
“Rebecca was passionate about everyone,” said Forrester, who worked with Nitkin for more than 15 years. “I thought of her like a soul mate.”
Forrester described Nitkin as a “ferocious fighter,” particularly for veterans.
Nitkin spoke on national television repeatedly about civil rights issues.
Former circuit court judge Audrey Creighton described Nitkin as “a warrior goddess,” who was a “fearless” and “tough” fighter against injustice.
“She didn’t care if you were homeless or if you had all the money in the world,” said Kalle Bannister, a paralegal at Nitkin’s law office, later adding, “She was as feisty as a lion and she roared like a lion.”
Bannister recalled a case when a semi-professional boxer told Nitkin he couldn’t afford to pay her during a case against him and she told him she would take it on anyway.
“She said, ‘You can’t plead guilty to something you’re not guilty of,'” said Bannister.
Nitkin earned degrees from Skidmore College (1980) and Boston University (1984) before earning her law degree from the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America in 1991.
The Maryland Bar Association admitted her in 1992 and the Washington, D.C. Bar Association admitted her in 1995.
Lauri Cleary, president of the Montgomery County Bar Association, said Nitkin was “very active” within the local Bar, having been elected to the executive committee.
“It’s the passion and the commitment that she brought to her work,” said Cleary. “I think she was committed and driven. She was a passionate defender of both the criminal defendants and the system.”
Nitkin is survived by her 17-year-old daughter Cydney Saltzman, husband Paul Saltzman and her parents. Arrangements are pending.