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Commencement Speaker

2017 Commencement

Roberta Kaplan
Partner, Litigation, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

As 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.” The ABA Journal has explained 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 2015 oral argument at the Fifth Circuit, one legal commentator noted that Robbie “deserves special recognition for her argument at the hearing.

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 nation's highest 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 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.

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.” 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.”

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 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's achievements have been honored by many, including the American Constitution Society, LOGO/MTV, the National Council of Jewish Women, the New York Women's Foundation, the Human Rights Campaign, the Family Equality Council, Stanford Law School, Columbia Law School, and the New York County Lawyers' Association. She has received honorary doctorates from Johns Hopkins University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Robbie currently serves as the co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) and is on the Board of Eye to Eye, whose mission is to develop mentoring programs for students with learning differences. Robbie serves as a subcommittee chair of New York's Commercial Division Advisory Council. She also is an adjunct professor of law at Columbia Law School, where she teaches a seminar on Advanced Civil Procedure.