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Roberta A. "Robbie" Kaplan (born 1966) is an American lawyer focusing on commercial litigation and public interest matters. She co-founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund and is an adjunct professor of law at Columbia University Law School.[1] She was a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison before starting her own firm in 2017.

Roberta A. Kaplan
Roberta A. Kaplan.JPG
Kaplan in 2015.
Born1966 (age 52–53)
ResidenceNew York City
Known forUnited States v. Windsor
Rachel Lavine (m. 2005)

Kaplan successfully argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of LGBT rights activist Edith Windsor, in United States v. Windsor, a landmark decision that invalidated a section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.


Early life and educationEdit

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Kaplan graduated from Hawken School in Gates Mills, Ohio, in 1984. LGBT scholar and activist Aaron Belkin was Kaplan's high school friend and prom date.[2] She earned an A.B. from Harvard University in 1988 and received her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1991.[3]


Kaplan served as a law clerk for Mark L. Wolf of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. While clerking for Judith Kaye, of the New York Court of Appeals, she assisted Kaye with a number of academic articles. Kaplan's scholarly articles include "Proof versus Prejudice" (2013).[4]

Kaplan joined Paul Weiss in 1996 and was made partner in 1999.[citation needed]

In July 2017, Kaplan founded Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, a law firm dedicated to commercial litigation and public interest matters.[5]

United States v. WindsorEdit

In 2009, Kaplan agreed to represent Edith Windsor pro bono. Windsor's wife, Thea Spyer, had died two years after they wed in Canada, leaving Windsor her sole heir.[6] Because their marriage was not recognized under existing U. S. federal law, Windsor received an estate tax bill of $363,053.[7][8] 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."[9] Kaplan had been co-counsel on the unsuccessful bid for marriage equality in New York state in 2006.[10]

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision declaring Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional.[11] 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.[2]

Awards and recognitionEdit

  • Forty Most Influential Lawyers under Forty, National Law Journal (2005)[12]
  • 100 Most Influential Lawyers, Above The Law (2013)[13]
  • Litigator of the Year, American Lawyer (2013)[14]
  • National Public Service Award, Stanford University (2013)[15]
  • Honorary Doctorate, Johns Hopkins University (2014)[16]
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, New York Law Journal (2015)[17]

Personal lifeEdit

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.[18]

Kaplan is active in her synagogue and is chair of the board of the Gay Men's Health Crisis.[19]


  1. ^ Walters, Joanna (2018-10-21). "#MeToo a revolution that can't be stopped, says Time's Up co-founder". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-21.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Brown, Conor W.K. (1 April 2019). "Roberta A. Kaplan to Speak at Harvard Law School Class Day". The Harvard Crimson. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Proof vs. Prejudice" (PDF). NYU Review of Law & Social Change. 37. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
  5. ^ "Roberta Kaplan, Champion of DOMA Fight, Leaves Paul Weiss to Start New Firm". Litigation Daily. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  6. ^ Gray, Eliza (2013-12-11). "Runner-Up: Edith Windsor The Unlikely Activist". Time. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
  7. ^ Levy, Ariel. "Ariel Levy: How Edith Windsor Won a Landmark Case for Gay Marriage". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Applebome, Peter (December 10, 2012). "Reveling in Her Supreme Court Moment". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  10. ^ Hartocollis, Anemona (July 7, 2006). "New York Judges Reject Any Right to Gay Marriage". New York Times. 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. ^ "Roberta Kaplan, 38". National Law Journal. 2005-05-09. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
  13. ^ "Above the Law's 2013 Lawyer of the Year Competition". Retrieved 2014-07-18.
  14. ^ "Litigator of the Year: Roberta Kaplan". The American Lawyer. 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
  15. ^ "2013 Recipients | Stanford Law School". 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  16. ^ Rector, Kevin (May 22, 2014). "DOMA plaintiff, attorney receive honorary degrees, applause at Hopkins commencement". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  17. ^ Baker, Rebecca. "Lifetime Achievement: Roberta Kaplan". New York Law Journal. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  18. ^ Wolfe, Anna. "'Justice, Justice, Thou Shalt Pursue': The JFP Interview with Roberta Kaplan".
  19. ^ Hoffman, Allison (March 24, 2013). "Gay Marriage's Legal Crusader". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 2014-08-16.

Further readingEdit

  • 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 linksEdit