Jewish leader of anti-sexual harassment group resigns over Cuomo ties

Time’s Up chief Roberta Kaplan had advised New York governor now accused of inappropriate conduct toward 11 women; also worked with aide who allegedly retaliated against accusers

Roberta Kaplan poses for a photo in Atherton, California, November 2019. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron, File)
Roberta Kaplan poses for a photo in Atherton, California, November 2019. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron, File)

JTA — Roberta Kaplan, the feminist lawyer who is prominent in New York’s Jewish community, is quitting “Time’s Up,” the group that has championed victims of sexual harassment, because of her role in advising an accused harasser, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In her letter Monday, first obtained by The New York Times, Kaplan said she could not provide the “transparency” required of a board member of Time’s Up, whose Legal Defense Fund she co-founded in 2017.

Last week New York Attorney General Letitia James issued results of an investigation of Cuomo corroborating the accounts of at least 11 women who accused the Democrat of sexual harassment.

Time’s Up said in a tweet that it agreed with Kaplan that stepping down as chair of the group’s board of directors was “the right and appropriate thing to do.”

She does not mention it in the letter, but Kaplan is legal counsel to Melissa DeRosa, the top Cuomo aide who allegedly retaliated against Cuomo’s accusers and who resigned this weekend. Kaplan also allegedly advised Cuomo on a never-published Op-Ed in which he responded to one of his accusers. Reports say she advised him not to smear the accuser but otherwise okayed it.

Kaplan helped establish marriage equality in the United States when she represented Edie Windsor, who sought full rights as the widow of her late wife, in a landmark 2013 case in which the Supreme Court ruled in Windsor’s favor.

In this June 23, 2021 file photo, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Windsor and her wife were Jewish and after winning the case, Kaplan delivered a drasha, or sermon, rooting her arguments in Jewish law, at Beit Simchat Torah, the LGBTQ congregation in Manhattan of which she is a member.

She also is leading a lawsuit against organizers of a neo-Nazi white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, and also has launched a number of lawsuits targeting former President Donald Trump.

Kaplan represents writer E. Jean Carroll, who filed a defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump in 2019 related to her claim that the former president raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s. Trump has denied Carroll’s allegations.

Carroll supported Kaplan in a tweet Monday.

“Robbie Kaplan is my attorney and will always be my attorney. She over-turned DOMA which ushered in Gay Rights. She’s fighting the Nazi’s in Charlottesville. She is leading the battle for gender equality in women’s sports. She is the best lawyer in America!!” she wrote.

AP contributed to this report

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