Kaplan Named Top Litigator

Spring 2014

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Roberta A. Kaplan ’91, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York City, was recently named “Litigator of the Year” by The American Lawyer. Kaplan was recognized for her successful representation of Edith Windsor in the U.S. Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor, which struck down key components of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

Kaplan sued the federal government on behalf of Windsor in 2010, after Windsor received a large estate tax bill from the government upon the death of her same-sex spouse. Kaplan argued that spouses in government-recognized marriages would not be subject to the same tax, and, more broadly, that DOMA was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruled in Windsor’s favor, striking down the section of DOMA that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It also allowed for the federal recognition of marriages between same-sex partners in states where the marriages are legal. The ruling is one of the most significant victories in the history of the gay rights movement.

In addition to this work, Kaplan also litigates cases involving credit rating opinions, structured finance transactions, and mortgage-backed securities. She has represented companies such as Fitch Ratings, Airbnb, and JPMorgan Chase in complex, high-profile matters.

Kaplan serves on the board of directors of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and was a member of New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s Task Force on Commercial Litigation in the 21st Century. She is also a lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School, where she co-teaches the course Advanced Civil Procedure: Scholarly and Judicial Perspectives.

In 2011, Columbia Law Women’s Association named Kaplan its distinguished alumna of the year. This May, she served as the keynote speaker at Columbia Law School’s graduation ceremony.

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Roberta A. Kaplan