Lawyer who defeated Trump twice leaves high-profile firm she founded after complaints she ‘mistreated’ colleagues

A lawyer who twice defeated former President Donald Trump in court and is celebrated as a prominent figure in the fight for marriage equality across the US is leaving her law firm.

Roberta Kaplan, who recently represented writer E. Jean Carroll in defamation lawsuits against Trump, said Wednesday that she is departing Kaplan Hecker & Fink along with partner Tim Martin to create a new firm named Kaplan Martin, due to launch in mid-July.

The news broke shortly before a New York Times article was published that cited sources accusing her of making insulting and inappropriate comments to employees, as well as threatening to derail other people’s careers.

The newspaper said that people familiar with the matter told them there had been months of “internal frustration” over Kaplan’s alleged conduct toward other lawyers.

The Independent has not been able to independently verify the report and has contacted Kaplan for comment.

In a statement to The Independent, Julie Fink and Sean Hecker said it was “Robbie’s decision to leave the firm.”

“As we’ve said, we wish her the very best and look forward to working with her and her new firm in the future” they added.

Kaplan’s lawyers denied to The New York Times that she had made inappropriate comments to her colleagues and said her firm took allegations of workplace misconduct seriously.

“There is nothing more unremarkable than trial lawyers using colorful language, criticizing their peers and representing diverse clients with no expectation of ideological purity,” they added.

Jean Carroll, center, and Roberta Kaplan, right, leave Manhattan Federal Court victorious at the conclusion of their civil defamation trial against former President Donald Trump (Getty Images)
Jean Carroll, center, and Roberta Kaplan, right, leave Manhattan Federal Court victorious at the conclusion of their civil defamation trial against former President Donald Trump (Getty Images)

In her own response, Kaplan told the newspaper that the work she does is “high-stakes and challenging, requiring both toughness and precision.”

Due to taking on “some of the world’s biggest bullies,” she added in her statement, “there are people who don’t like me, which comes with the territory, particularly when you are a woman. I am proud of my record as a lawyer, colleague and mentor.”

As Kaplan departs the firm she founded seven years ago, the law firm will shorten its name to Hecker Fink beginning next week, according to an internal memo reviewed by Reuters.

Her new boutique firm will focus on civil litigation, internal corporate investigations and strategic advisory, she told Bloomberg on Wednesday.

“It’s really that the firm grew rapidly, which is great, but it grew in size and complexity beyond what I had in mind and I wanted to get back to something nimbler,” Kaplan told the outlet.

Kaplan and her former firm have played an important role in several landmark and high-profile cases, including helping defeat the Defense of Marriage Act at the Supreme Court level, a major victory in the battle for marriage equality for LGBTQ+ couples across the United States.

She also stood beside E Jean Carroll in the recent defamation lawsuit against Trump, helping win the Elle magazine writer more than $83 million in damages forthe former president’s defamatory statements in January.

Trump was previously found liable for sexual abuse and then lying about her sexual assault allegations, which fuelled abusive messages and death threats against her. Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Kaplan was also the chair of Time’s Up and co-creator of its legal defense fund, which helps women who have experienced sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. However, after a damning report accused Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexually harassing a number of women, she resigned in 2021 as it emerged she’d advised Cuomo’s administration. Cuomo has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

The New York Times stated that one person familiar with the law firm’s internal dynamics alleged that the tensions surrounding Kaplan began around that time, but have gained more force in recent months.

Among other cases, Kaplan was also a co-lead counsel in an around $25m verdict against white nationalists after neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville in 2017.