Roberta A. Kaplan

Partner
Roberta A. Kaplan

Education

  • B.A., Harvard University, 1988
    magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
  • J.D., Columbia University, 1991

Clerkships

  • Hon. Mark L. Wolf, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts
  • Hon. Judith S. Kaye, New York Court of Appeals

Fellowships, Leadership & Recognitions

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Corporate Counsel’s 2019 Women, Influence & Power in Law Awards
  • Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Benchmark Litigation
  • 2020 Best Lawyers in America, Commercial Litigation
  • 2019 Law Power 50, City & State New York
  • Top Hollywood Attorney, The Hollywood Reporter
  • Leading Lawyers in America, Lawdragon 500
  • New York Super Lawyers, 2019
  • Top 10 Female Litigator, Benchmark Litigation
  • Gold Medal Award. New York State Bar Association, 2018
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, New York Law Journal 
  • Inspiration Award, WNBA, 2018
  • Eleanor Roosevelt Medal of Honor, 2018
  • Honoree, Alliance for Justice, 2018
  • Human Relations Award, Anti Defamation League, 2018
  • Litigator of the Year, American Lawyer, 2013
  • The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in the U.S., The National Law Journal 
  • Lawyer of the Year, Above The Law, 2013
  • Most Innovative Lawyer of The Year, The Financial Times, 2014
  • Medal of Excellence, Columbia Law School
  • National Equality Award, Human Rights Campaign
  • Social Action Award, National Council of Jewish Women
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Johns Hopkins University
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, Millsaps College

Bar and Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Eastern District of New York, and Northern District of New York
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • New York
  • Massachusetts

Roberta (“Robbie”) Kaplan is the founding partner at Kaplan Hecker & Fink 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.” 

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 Association and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Law Journal, Robbie has also been honored  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. Robbie was also recently named one of the Top 10 Female Litigators in the country by Benchmark Litigation.

Robbie’s practice includes a wide range of commercial matters for clients like Airbnb, Uber, Columbia University, and Fitch Ratings. Robbie represents these clients and others in their most high-stakes, complex legal challenges, delivering a track record of impressive results. 

Robbie has represented a number of technology companies in the sharing economy. On behalf of her client Airbnb, she succeeded in obtaining a preliminary injunction on Fourth Amendment grounds blocking a New York City ordinance from taking effect. The ordinance in question would have required Airbnb to turn over massive amounts of data about its individual users, a prospect that posed significant privacy concerns. 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. In 2018, Robbie succeeded in securing the dismissal of a lawsuit against the school by a former student, which had alleged Columbia’s failure to fulfill its Title IX obligations. 

Robbie has handled a diverse array of cases in the financial sector, including matters involving stock analysts’ recommendations, market timing in mutual funds, reinsurance transactions, and structured finance transactions. As one example, Robbie has 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 a particular expertise dealing with the complex interplay between regulatory investigations and the onslaught of civil lawsuits that often follow.

Robbie has a deep-seated commitment to using the law to advance the public interest, and public impact litigation has a central role in her practice. Since founding Kaplan Hecker & Fink, she has filed a lawsuit under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 against twenty-four neo-Nazi and white supremacist leaders responsible for organizing the racial- and religious-based violence in Charlottesville in August 2017; successfully challenged the City of Starkville’s refusal to allow a LGBT Pride Parade; and sued President Trump, his family, and his business, for defrauding investors in a multi-level marketing scheme linked to a failed telecommunications company. Robbie currently represents Moira Donegan in a defamation lawsuit relating to the publication of what became known as the “Shitty Media Men” list, and represents Amber Heard in a $50 million defamation lawsuit filed by her ex-husband Johnny Depp.

Robbie is also the co-founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which supports workers who have experienced workplace sexual harassment and related retaliation to seek the justice they deserve, regardless of industry, rank, or role. 

Before founding Kaplan Hecker & Fink, Robbie was a litigation partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP. While at Paul, Weiss, Robbie gained decades of experience representing a diverse group of clients such as J.P. Morgan Chase, the Minnesota Vikings, and T-Mobile in intricate, high profile matters. In July 2017, Robbie left Paul, Weiss after 25 years to found Kaplan Hecker & Fink (then Kaplan & Company LLP), seeking to build a “new fashioned” and “old fashioned” law firm that could combine cutting edge commercial litigation with a groundbreaking commitment to serving the public interest. 

Robbie is perhaps 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." In the years following Windsor, Robbie successfully won a case seeking marriage equality in the State of Mississippi, overturned Mississippi's gay adoption ban, and 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.

In honoring Robbie as “Most Innovative Lawyer of the Year,” 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 been named a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by Benchmark Litigation, a Best Lawyer in America 2020 in the field of Commercial Litigation, one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Lawyers” in the United States by The National Law Journal, the fifth most powerful New York lawyer by City & State New York, one of Hollywood's Top 100 Attorneys by The Hollywood Reporter, a Leading Lawyer in America by Lawdragon 500, a Lifetime Achievement honoree at Corporate Counsel’s 2019 Women, Influence & Power in Law Awards and a New York Super Lawyer for 2019.

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 was also chosen by representatives of Harvard Law School's class of 2019 to be their Class Day speaker.

Robbie currently serves as the 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, and is a member of the Judicial Task Force on the New York State Constitution.

Read about Roberta A. Kaplan in our Newsroom

Published on: March 9, 2020

Roberta Kaplan Named to City & State’s 2020 Law Power 100 List

NEW YORK, NY, March 9, 2020 – Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP is delighted to announce that Founding Partner Roberta (“Robbie”) Kaplan has been named to City & State New York’s 2020 Law Power 100... Read More
Published on: December 16, 2019

Roberta Kaplan and Julie Fink Named to Crain’s Notable Women in Law List for 2020

NEW YORK, NY, December 16, 2019 – Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP is delighted to announce that Founding Partner Roberta (“Robbie”) Kaplan and Managing Partner Julie Fink have been named to Crain’s New... Read More
Published on: November 18, 2019

Roberta Kaplan Recognized by City & State in 2019 Women Power 100 List

NEW YORK, NY, November 18, 2019 – Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP is pleased to announce that Founding Partner Roberta (“Robbie”) Kaplan has been included in City & State New York’s second annual... Read More