ProfessionalsRoberta A. Kaplan
A partner in the Paul, Weiss Litigation Department, Roberta (Robbie) Kaplan has been described as a “litigation superstar,” a “powerhouse corporate litigator” and a “pressure junkie” who “thrives on looking at the big picture” whether “in the gay-marriage legal fight or high-profile corporate scandals."
In addition to receiving 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.” The ABA Journal similarly observed that 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.” Describing a recent 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 extensive experience representing a diverse group of clients such as JP Morgan Chase, Fitch Ratings, Columbia University, the Minnesota Vikings and Airbnb in complex, high-profile matters. She has been active, for example, 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 currently serves as lead counsel for JP Morgan Chase and coordinating counsel for the bank syndicate in a multi-billion dollar lender liability proceeding arising out of the bankruptcy of Thornburg Mortgage, where she acts as "coordinating counsel" for the syndicate of five major lending institutions. Recently, she succeeded in obtaining dismissal of 22 of the original 31 claims in that case.
Robbie has 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 purpoted 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. Mr. Nungesser's lawsuit arises from an accusation of rape against Mr. Nungesser by fellow undergraduate Ms. Sulkowicz. Following an investigation and hearing, the University found Mr. Nungesser not responsible. In response, Ms. Sulkowicz began a performance art project entitled "Mattress Performance (Carry that Weight)," in which she carried a mattress around campus and received extensive press and public attention. Mr. Nungesser alleges that, by permitting Ms. Sulkowicz to carry out her art project, the University violated his rights under Title IX. On March 11, 2016, Judge Gregory Woods of the Southern District of New York agreed with Robbie, dismissing the complaint, on the ground that accepting Mr. Nungesser's argument "would lead to the conclusion that those who commit, or are accused of committing, sexual assault are a protected class under Title IX. The statute does not permit that result." Robbie also represented the Minnesota Vikings in connection with its settlement with former NFL punter, Chris Kluwe.
Robbie successfully argued 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. Consequences of the Windsor decision have been both rapid and profound. Dozens of courts throughout the United States have explicitly relied on Windsor to extend equal rights to gay people under the law. 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." That consensus now includes the Supreme Court, which in Obergefell v. Hodges, held that gay couples have an equal protection and due process right to marry in all fifty states. Since Windsor, Robbie successfully won a case seeking marriage equality in the State of Mississippi, overturned Mississippi's gay adoption ban, and won a preliminary injunction from the district court overturning Mississippi's HB 1523, an anti-LGBT "religious freedom" law on Establishment Clause grounds. Although she has been described as a "new hero to the gay rights movement," Robbie has credited her friends and family "for helping her get through the 'out-of-body experience' and historic, high-stress litigation work for which she is noted.
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." For more information, go to www.robbiekaplan.com.
Robbie 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), 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 currently serves as the co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC). Robbie 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. She is also an adjunct professor of law at Columbia Law School, where she teaches a seminar on Advanced Civil Procedure.
Robbie has received numerous recognitions for her legal accomplishments and charitable activities, including the New York Law Journal Lifetime Achievement Award; The American Lawyer Litigator of the Year; Above The Law Lawyer of The Year; Financial Times Legal Innovator of the Year; National Law Journal's 100 Most Influential Lawyers in the United States; 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. Robbie also received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Johns Hopkins University and an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the Jewish Theological Seminary.