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Time’s Up leader resigns after criticism about Cuomo ties

August 9, 2021 Marina Villeneuve, Associated Press
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The attorney and women’s advocate Roberta Kaplan resigned Monday as chair of the prominent #MeToo group Time’s Up over the over fallout from her work advising Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration when the first allegations of sexual harassment were made against him last year.

Kaplan cited her work counseling the administration last winter and her more recent legal work representing Melissa DeRosa, a top aide to Cuomo who resigned Sunday, nearly a week after a report by the state attorney general concluded that the governor had sexually harassed 11 women.

Time’s Up tweeted Monday that Kaplan stepped down from the board: “We and she agree that is the right and appropriate thing to do.”

“I therefore have reluctantly come to the conclusion that an active law practice is no longer compatible with serving on the Board at Time’s Up at this time and I hereby resign,” Kaplan wrote in her resignation letter.

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Messages went sent to Kaplan requesting comment on her resignation.

Kaplan was the Chair of the Board of Directors of Time’s Up and cofounder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which aids women who have experienced sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign said Monday it’s launching an internal investigation over the advocacy organization’s leader Alphonso David inclusion in the attorney general’s report.

“Over the past several days, HRC’s employees, supporters, board members and partners have raised questions about the appropriateness of Alphonso David’s actions and whether they align with HRC’s decades’ long mission of fighting for equality and justice for all.”

Both Kaplan and David, a former legal counsel for the governor, were consulted by the Cuomo administration when he was first accused of harassment by a former economic development adviser, Lindsey Boylan.

At the time, Boylan was alone in accusing Cuomo of misconduct and the governor and his administration had drafted a letter attacking her credibility and motives, with the intent of circulating it publicly. Kaplan and David both agreed to review the letter.

A report by New York’s attorney general, released last week, said Kaplan told the administration that with some adjustments, it would be fine to send out. David declined to sign the letter, but agreed to contact other people to see if they would.

Other advisers, though, said that it was a bad idea and the letter was never widely disseminated.

Kaplan and Tina Tchen founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in 2018 to provide legal defense for sexual violence victims, and her role in advising the Cuomo administration stunned some of the group’s supporters.

Several of its past backers sent an open letter Monday demanding an independent, third-party investigation. It also called on Times Up to case “all partnerships” with and return any donations from individuals and corporations with active sexual assault or harassment allegations.

“There is a consistent pattern of behavior where the decision-makers at TIME’S UP continue to align themselves with abusers at the expense of survivors,” the letter reads. “TIME’S UP should be ashamed.”

The Time Up’s organization wrote in a statement that its staff has worked in “those very institutions” it’s trying to hold accountable.

“We have never felt co-opted by that experience, only informed by it to try new strategies,” reads the statement. “And we are proud of that work and the change we have achieved. Yet, we recognize that this work has sometimes resulted in a lack of trust from the broader survivor community we serve and to which we also belong.”

Kaplan successfully represented marriage equality pioneer Edith Windsor before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, winning the case that struck down laws against same-sex marriage across the United States. She later published a book about the case titled “Then Comes Marriage.”

Kaplan also 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 claims.

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.

Kaplan is an adjunct professor at Columbia University Law School and was a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison before starting her own firm in 2017.

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