November 12, 2020

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm, Pacific Time

Guest Speaker Series: Roberta Kaplan

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Roberta Kaplan became a national figure in 2013 when she represented Edith Windsor in a landmark case where the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to marital benefits. The 5-4 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Kennedy said the law was motivated by a desire to harm gay and lesbian couples and their families, demeaning both the "moral and sexual choices" of these couples and thus humiliating "tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples." 

Kaplan, a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School, later wrote an acclaimed book about the case, Then Comes Marriage. At the time, Kaplan was a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a firm with more than 1,000 lawyers. In 2017, she left to form her own firm, Kaplan Hecker & Fink, where she does both commercial and civil rights litigation. Currently, her most prominent case is Sines v. Kessler, a lawsuit stemming out of the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia—an event where a white supremacist deliberately rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 other people. The driver pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. 

In the Sines case, Kaplan is utilizing the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 against two dozen neo-Nazi and white supremacist leaders, as well as organizations, such as the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and Nationalist Front. The suit seeks injunctive relief, compensatory, and punitive damages. 

She has received many awards, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Medal of Honor in 2018. 

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