Roberta A. Kaplan
Roberta A. Kaplan (born 1966) is an American litigator and partner in the Litigation Department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and an adjunct professor of law at Columbia University Law School. In a move that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder described as "unusual for a private attorney" she successfully argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of her client, Edith (Edie) Windsor, in United States v. Windsor. This resulted in a groundbreaking decision that invalidated a crucial section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Education and career
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Roberta (Robbie) Kaplan graduated from high school in 1984. In 1988 she earned an A.B. from Harvard University magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa. She received her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1991. She clerked for Judge Mark Wolf of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. While serving as a senior law clerk for Judge Judith Kaye, of the New York Court of Appeals, she assisted Judge Kaye with a number of articles. Her scholarly articles include the more recent co-authoring of "Proof versus Prejudice" She and her wife, Rachel Lavine, live in New York City with their son.
Kaplan joined Paul Weiss in 1996 and was made partner in 1999. Nicknamed a "pressure junkie" by her peers, she has extensive experience representing corporate clients such as Citibank, AIG, Fitch Ratings, Airbnb, and JP Morgan Chase in complex matters ranging from mortgage-backed securities, structured finance transactions and credit rating opinions.
In 2009, Kaplan agreed to represent Edie Windsor pro bono. Windsor's wife, Thea Spyer, had died, leaving Windsor her sole heir. But because their marriage was not recognized under the existing federal law, Windsor received a tax bill of $363,053. Windsor went to gay rights advocates seeking redress, but could find no one to take her case. Finally, she was referred to Kaplan, who later recalled, "When I heard her story, it took me about five seconds, maybe less, to agree to represent her." Kaplan had been co-counsel on the unsuccessful bid for marriage equality in New York state in 2006.
In a spirited exchange between Kaplan and Chief Justice John Roberts, Roberts alleged that politicians were "falling all over themselves" to support her case. Kaplan responded, "The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chief Justice, is that no other group in recent history has been subjected to popular referenda to take away rights that have already been given or exclude those rights, the way gay people have."
On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision declaring Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional. Edith Windsor herself declared, "Robbie Kaplan said, as Martin Luther King said before her, there is no wrong time to seek justice." As the highly esteemed Harvard law professor Noah Feldman points out, Windsor is the only successful gay marriage case that has been ruled on by the US Supreme Court, and he credits Robbie Kaplan with this decision, among others. A year after the decision was announced, the Los Angeles Times reported that "nineteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage" and that pending cases are likely working their way up to the Supreme Court.
Kaplan wrote about United States v. Windsor in the book Then Comes Marriage (2015).
- Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015)
- The People's Brief (Human Rights Campaign, 2015)
Awards and recognition
In 2005 she was named one of 'forty most influential lawyers under forty' by the National Law Review. She was named one of "100 Most Influential Lawyers" as well as a 2013 Lawyer of the Year and 2013 Litigator of the Year. President Bill Clinton described her as "amazing."
She won a National Public Service Award from Stanford University.
Johns Hopkins University bestowed upon her an honorary doctorate.
- Reilly, Ryan J. (June 10, 2014). "Eric Holder Goes From DOMA Defender To Gay Rights Honoree". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
- "Proof vs. Prejudice" (PDF). NYU Review of Law & Social Change 37. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
- "Roberta A. Kaplan | Adjunct Faculty | Columbia Law School". Law.columbia.edu. 1961-11-09. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
- Gray, Eliza (2013-12-11). "Runner-Up: Edith Windsor The Unlikely Activist". Time. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
- Levy, Ariel. "Ariel Levy: How Edith Windsor Won a Landmark Case for Gay Marriage". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
- Applebome, Peter (December 10, 2012). "Reveling in Her Supreme Court Moment". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
- "Robbie Kaplan on Rachel Maddow 6/26". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
- Feldman, Noah (2014-04-18). "Gay Marriage Book by Jo Becker Claims Boies, Olson Are the Heroes". New Republic. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
- "Supreme Court's DOMA ruling still shaping gay marriage 1 year later". LA Times. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
- "Opinion: DOMA fight hinged on a great love story". CNN.com. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
- "Roberta Kaplan, 38". National Law Journal. 2005-05-09. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
- "Above the Law’s 2013 Lawyer of the Year Competition: The Winner! « Above the Law: A Legal Web Site – News, Commentary, and Opinions on Law Firms, Lawyers, Law Schools, Law Suits, Judges and Courts + Career Resources". Abovethelaw.com. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
- "Litigator of the Year: Roberta Kaplan". The American Lawyer. 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
- Chozick, Amy (June 23, 2014). "Bill Clinton Adds Voice to Wife’s Support of Gay Rights". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
- "2013 Recipients | Stanford Law School". Law.stanford.edu. 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
- Rector, Kevin (May 22, 2014). "DOMA plaintiff, attorney receive honorary degrees, applause at Hopkins commencement". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
- Hoffman, Allison (March 24, 2013). "Gay Marriage’s Legal Crusader". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 2014-08-16.