Roberta A. Kaplan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Draft:Roberta A. Kaplan)
Jump to: navigation, search
Roberta A. Kaplan
Born 1966
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S
Occupation Lawyer
Known for United States v. Windsor
Spouse(s) Rachel Lavine (m. 2005)
Children 1

Roberta A. "Robbie" Kaplan (born 1966) is an American lawyer. She is the founding partner of Kaplan & Company, LLP, a law firm dedicated to commercial litigation and public interest matters, and an adjunct professor of law at Columbia University Law School. Until July 2017, she was a partner in the Litigation Department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Kaplan successfully argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of her client, Edith Windsor, in United States v. Windsor (2013). This resulted in a landmark decision that invalidated a section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus requiring the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages. Windsor led to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down all remaining state and federal laws against same-sex marriage across the United States.

Early life and education[edit]

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Roberta (Robbie) Kaplan graduated from Hawken School in Gates Mills, Ohio, in 1984. Noted LGBT scholar and activist Aaron Belkin was Kaplan's high school friend and prom date.[1] 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.


After obtaining her law degree, Kaplan served as a law clerk for Judge Mark Wolf of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. While clerking for Judge Judith Kaye, of the New York Court of Appeals, she assisted Judge Kaye with a number of academic articles. Her scholarly articles include "Proof versus Prejudice" (2013).[2]

Kaplan joined Paul Weiss in 1996 and was made partner in 1999. Deemed 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.[3]

In July 2017, Kaplan founded Kaplan & Company, LLP, a law firm dedicated to commercial litigation and public interest matters.[4]

United States v. Windsor[edit]

In 2009, Kaplan agreed to represent Edie Windsor pro bono. Windsor's wife, Thea Spyer, had died two years after they wed in Canada, leaving Windsor her sole heir.[5] But because their marriage was not recognized under existing U. S. federal law, Windsor received an estate tax bill of $363,053.[6][7] Windsor went to gay rights advocates seeking redress, but could find no one to take her case. 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."[8] Kaplan had been co-counsel on the unsuccessful bid for marriage equality in New York state in 2006.[9]

In a spirited exchange between Kaplan and Chief Justice John Roberts during oral arguments for the case, 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."[10]

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision declaring Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional.[11] Edith Windsor declared, "Robbie Kaplan said, as Martin Luther King said before her, there is no wrong time to seek justice."[12] Subsequent to Windsor, the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) struck down all remaining state and federal laws against same-sex marriage across the United States. Kaplan wrote about United States v. Windsor in the book Then Comes Marriage.[1]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • Forty Most Influential Lawyers under Forty, National Law Journal (2005)[13]
  • 100 Most Influential Lawyers, Above The Law (2013)[14]
  • Litigator of the Year, American Lawyer (2013)[15]
  • National Public Service Award, Stanford University (2013)[16]
  • Honorary Doctorate, Johns Hopkins University (2014)[17]
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, New York Law Journal (2015)[18]

Personal life[edit]

In September 2005, Kaplan married her partner, lawyer and Democratic Party activist Rachel Lavine, in Toronto, Canada. The couple live in New York City with their son.[19]

She is active in her synagogue and is co-chair of the board of the Gay Men's Health Crisis.[20]


  1. ^ a b Kaplan, Roberta A., with Lisa Dickey (2015). Then Comes Marriage: United States V. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 9780393248678. 
  2. ^ "Proof vs. Prejudice" (PDF). NYU Review of Law & Social Change. 37. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  3. ^ "Roberta A. Kaplan | Adjunct Faculty | Columbia Law School". 1961-11-09. Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  4. ^ "Roberta Kaplan, Champion of DOMA Fight, Leaves Paul Weiss to Start New Firm". Litigation Daily. Retrieved 2017-07-07. 
  5. ^ Gray, Eliza (2013-12-11). "Runner-Up: Edith Windsor The Unlikely Activist". Time. Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  6. ^ Levy, Ariel. "Ariel Levy: How Edith Windsor Won a Landmark Case for Gay Marriage". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  7. ^ Jim, Dwyer (June 7, 2012). "She Waited 40 Years to Marry, Then When Her Wife Died, the Tax Bill Came". New York Times. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  8. ^ Applebome, Peter (December 10, 2012). "Reveling in Her Supreme Court Moment". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  9. ^ Hartocollis, Anemona (July 7, 2006). "New York Judges Reject Any Right to Gay Marriage". New York Times. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  10. ^ "Key Moments From the Hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act". New York Times. March 27, 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  11. ^ Liptak, Adam (June 26, 2013). "Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage With Two Major Rulings". New York Times. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  12. ^ "Robbie Kaplan on Rachel Maddow 6/26". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  13. ^ "Roberta Kaplan, 38". National Law Journal. 2005-05-09. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  14. ^ "Above the Law's 2013 Lawyer of the Year Competition". Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  15. ^ "Litigator of the Year: Roberta Kaplan". The American Lawyer. 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  16. ^ "2013 Recipients | Stanford Law School". 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  17. ^ Rector, Kevin (May 22, 2014). "DOMA plaintiff, attorney receive honorary degrees, applause at Hopkins commencement". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  18. ^ Baker, Rebecca. "Lifetime Achievement: Roberta Kaplan". New York Law Journal. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  19. ^ Wolfe, Anna. "'Justice, Justice, Thou Shalt Pursue': The JFP Interview with Roberta Kaplan". 
  20. ^ Hoffman, Allison (March 24, 2013). "Gay Marriage's Legal Crusader". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 

Further reading[edit]

Roberta A. Kaplan, with Lisa Dickey. Then Comes Marriage: United States V. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA. New York: W. W. Norton, 2015. ISBN 9780393248678

External links[edit]