March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the month we’ll be profiling D.C. based women you should know. Amy Morse, the founder of Ideas Club, is heading the project. Today she profiles Kate Kimpel. If you’d like to suggest someone for Amy to profile, tweet at her. -ed.
Kate Kimpel is a badass. Kate is a Managing Partner with Sanford Heisler Kimpel LLP, a public interest law firm. Kate serves as Lead Counsel in numerous class action and individual race and gender discrimination matters, including Lead Counsel in Kassman et. al. v. KPMG, a class action on behalf of women working at the Big Four accounting firms. Kate has built a career of representing women in gender, sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination claims, and was Lead Counsel in Velez v. Novartis — where she won the largest gender discrimination verdict ($250 million in punitive damages alone) in United States history. Kate also authors briefs regarding issues of women and work for the Supreme Court and teaches a course on anti-discrimination law at Yale Law School.
Kate attributes her dedication to social justice to lessons learned from her family at an early age. Her faith emphasizes our mutual responsibility for one another, and she’s made her career choices accordingly. Kate spent three years teaching 4th grade in the D.C. public schools, and she continues to be involved in D.C. education through serving on the ambassador board of KIPP DC. She also has represented Spanish speakers and undocumented individuals facing discrimination in housing and other civil legal matters; represented coalitions and families fighting to get better funding for the public schools; worked on issues of prison reform through the bipartisan Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons (she also currently represents the Angola 3, challenging the constitutionality of holding people in solitary confinement for decades on end); and served as Special Counsel on the Civil Rights Subcommittee on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Finally, Kate also serves as the Senior Editor for the blog Shattering the Ceiling which discusses issues surrounding women and work in a way that even non-lawyers can understand and appreciate!
Woman Who Inspires Her
Julia Lathrop, one of many lesser-known women heroines, lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and was the first woman to head a federal bureau. While some of her colleagues were doing amazing work through the Hull House settlement house in Chicago, Julia turned her attention to two major problems plaguing her community: the criminalization of poverty and the propensity to treat juvenile offenders as adults. At the time, police arrested poor (ethnic-minority) children for begging (or just loitering). Those children were then put into adult prisons. Julia was one of the (if not the) major driver to get Chicago first, and then the country, to do something different. She successfully pushed the creation of a juvenile justice system. And she successfully pushed for that system to provide financial support to poor families, rather than prison time. Some of those benefits (for women and families) continue to this day. Sadly, many of the lessons we learned back then have been lost and we are, once again, arresting poor minority youth and locking them up in adult prisons at horrifying rates. Julia dedicated her career to taking on the seemingly impossible. She was ahead of her time and undaunted by systemic challenges.
Kate was also inspired by her great, great grandmother, Gorina Stensby Wheeler. Without consulting her, Gloria’s husband bartered their oldest daughter in exchange for livestock and other supplies. He informed Gorina that their oldest daughter was “married,” and they would not be seeing her again. Back then, women did not leave their husbands. But Gorina packed up her children and moved to another state, opened her own business, and crafted a life for herself and her remaining children. Her action repudiated, on a daily basis, the sexism that infected the expected social norms of the time. She was fearless, and her legacies of principle, compassion and grit have been passed down through the women in Kate’s family.