Roberta Kaplan

  • Lecturer in Law

Roberta (“Robbie”) Kaplan is the founding partner at Kaplan & Company, LLP. A formidable litigator with decades of experience in both commercial and civil rights litigation, Robbie has become an expert in cutting-edge areas of law. As the ABA Journal has written, Robbie “could be described as a specialist in emerging law. She litigates cases that shape the legal structure within which Americans live, love, work and hail cabs.”

Before founding Kaplan & Company, Robbie was a litigation partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, where she was described as a “powerhouse corporate litigator” and a “litigation superstar.” While at Paul, Weiss, Robbie gained decades of experience representing a diverse group of clients such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Fitch Ratings, Columbia University, the Minnesota Vikings, T-Mobile and Airbnb in complex, high profile matters. She has been active in matters involving stock analyst's recommendations, market timing in mutual funds, reinsurance transactions, and structured finance transactions. During the period from 2007 through the most recent financial crisis, Robbie represented Fitch Ratings in dozens of regulatory investigations and civil litigations in both state and federal court relating to Fitch's credit ratings of RMBS, CDO, and municipal bond transactions. As a result, Robbie has developed an expertise dealing with the complex interplay between regulatory investigations, and the onslaught of civil lawsuits that often follow.

Robbie has also represented a number of technology companies in the sharing economy. On behalf of her client Airbnb, she succeeded in quashing a subpoena from the New York Attorney General seeking vast amounts of Airbnb's user data. Robbie represents Handy Technologies, Inc. in litigation involving the Fair Labor Standards Act as well as Airbnb in two purported class actions pending in the Southern District of New York.

Robbie currently represents Columbia University on issues relating to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, including litigation involving its former students Emma Sulkowicz and Paul Nungesser. Robbie also represented the Minnesota Vikings in connection with its settlement with former NFL punter, Chris Kluwe.

Robbie is best known for successfully arguing before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of her client Edith Windsor in United States v. Windsor, the landmark Supreme Court case. In Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled that a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the U.S. Constitution by barring legally married same-sex couples from enjoying the wide-ranging benefits of marriage conferred under federal law. The consequences of the Windsor decision were both rapid and profound. Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School has observed that he cannot "think of any Supreme Court decision in history that has ever created so rapid and broad a lower-court groundswell in a single direction as Windsor." Since Windsor, Robbie successfully won a case seeking marriage equality in the State of Mississippi, overturned Mississippi's gay adoption ban, and has continued the fight against Mississippi's HB 1523, an anti-LGBT "religious freedom" law..

Robbie is the author of the book Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA (W.W. Norton), which was chosen by the L.A. Times as one of the top 10 books of 2015, by Ms. Magazine as one of the top feminist books of 2015, and by Tony Mauro of The National Law Journal as one of the top 10 books about the Supreme Court of 2015. President Bill Clinton has noted that "United States v. Windsor was a landmark ruling and the case's architect, Roberta Kaplan, emerged as a true American hero. Then Comes Marriage is a riveting account of a watershed moment in our history, and the strategy, ingenuity, and humanity that made it happen."

Robbie currently serves as an adjunct professor of law at Columbia Law School, where she teaches a seminar on Advanced Civil Procedure. She has also published numerous articles on a variety of legal topics, including Judith Kaye and "Matter of Jacob," New York L.J. (Apr. 6, 2016), Airbnb: A Case Study in Occupancy Regulation and Taxation, 82 Univ. of Chicago L. Rev. Dialogue 103 (2015-2016), It's All about Edie, Stupid: Lessons from Litigating United States v. Windsor, 29 Columbia J. of Gender & Law 85 (2015), Can New York City Govern Itself - The Incongruity of the Court of Appeals' Recent Cases Regarding Regulation of New York City by New York City, 78 Albany L. Rev. 105 (2014-2015), New York City Taxis and the New York State Legislature: What is Left of the State Constitution's Home Rule Clause after the Court of Appeals Decision in the HAIL Act Case?, 77 Albany Law Rev. 113 (2013-2014), The Dissent that Paved the Way to Equal Dignity: Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye’s Dissent in Hernandez, 93 NYUL Rev. 56 (2017), and Proof vs. Prejudice, 37 New York Univ. Rev. of L. & Social Change 134 (2013). She also wrote the chapters "Investigating the Case" in Commercial Litigation in New York State Courts, and "Interplay Between Commercial Litigation and Criminal Proceedings" in Commercial Litigation in the Federal Circuit Courts.

Robbie has received numerous honors and recognitions for her groundbreaking legal work. In addition to receiving the Gold Medal Award from the New York State Bar Asssociation and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Law Journal, Robbie has also been selected by The National Law Journal as one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers” in the United States, as “Litigator of the Year” by The American Lawyer, as “Lawyer of the Year” by Above the Law, and as the “Most Innovative Lawyer of The Year” by The Financial Times. The Financial Times noted that “the judges had little trouble picking just one of them to win the award for most innovative individual – itself an innovation for the report this year. Robbie Kaplan has been involved in some of the most important legal developments of recent years.” Describing an oral argument at the Fifth Circuit, one legal commentator noted that Robbie “deserves special recognition for her argument at the hearing. An accomplished attorney long before she came to represent Edith Windsor, Ms. Kaplan offered concise, smart and well-reasoned responses to the judge’s questions.”

Robbie has also received the National Council of Jewish Women Social Action Award; Columbia Law School Medal of Excellence; Stanford Law School National Public Service Award; New York County Lawyers' Association President's Medal and the American Constitutional Society Keeping Faith Award. She also holds an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Johns Hopkins University and an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the Jewish Theological Seminary, Pace University, and Millsaps College.

Robbie currently serves as the co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC). She also serves as a subcommittee chair of New York's Commercial Division Advisory Council as well as The Judicial Task Force on the New York State Constitution.