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Mary Catherine Roper
MaryCatherine Roper


  • University of Pennsylvania Law School, J.D., cum laude, 1993
  • Bryn Mawr College, B.A., 1987

Judicial Clerkship

  • Honorable Anita B. Brody, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania


  • Pennsylvania
  • United States District Courts for the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of Pennsylvania, the District of New Jersey and the Eastern District of Michigan
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • United States Supreme Court


Mary Catherine Roper joined the firm in October 2021, bringing experience in civil rights and in complex litigation in state and federal courts. Mary Catherine comes to the firm from her position as Deputy Legal Director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, where she managed an active docket of state and federal court cases addressing a broad range of civil liberties issues. She is known for creative strategies that achieve results, whether that is relief for individual clients, or broader law reform. She has led successful collaborations with firms large and small, with public interest coalitions, and with government agencies.

Representative Cases

    • McFalls, et al. v. 38th Judicial District, et. al, 4 MD 2021 (Pa. Commonwealth Ct.) Lead counsel in original jurisdiction class action in Commonwealth Court on behalf of criminal court defendants assessed duplicate amounts for costs set by statute. Preliminary objections denied August 6, 2021; class certified April 6, 2023. Litigation is ongoing.
    • Philadelphia Community Bail Fund v. Arraignment Court Magistrates of the First Judicial District, 21 EM 2019 (Pa. 2020) Lead counsel in innovative in original jurisdiction class action in Pennsylvania Supreme Court to remedy systemic violations of Pennsylvania Rules and Constitution in Philadelphia’s arraignment court.
    • Kuren v. Luzerne County, 637 Pa. 33, 146 A.3d 715 (2016) Lead counsel in class action on behalf of clients of underfunded public defender office, which resulted in groundbreaking affirmance by Pa. Supreme Court of right of criminal defendants to seek relief apart from post conviction remedies.
    • Bailey v. City of Philadelphia, No. 10-5952 (E.D. Pa. June 21, 2011) Co-counsel in long-running class action alleging that Philadelphia Police Department “stop and frisk” practices violate Fourth Amendment and are racially discriminatory. City entered into consent decree in 2011, which has resulted in 70% reduction in pedestrian stops in the City.
    • Whitewood, et al. v. Wolf, 992 F. Supp. 2d 410 (M.D. Pa. 2014) Co-counsel in the case that brought marriage equality to Pennsylvania, the first such suit filed after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744 (2013).
    • Doe v. Boyertown Area Sch. Dist., 897 F.3d 518 (3d Cir. 2018) As lead counsel for intervening defendant Pennsylvania Youth Congress, successfully defended school policy of allowing transgender students to use facilities appropriate to their gender identity, petition for certiorari denied.
    • Fields v. City of Philadelphia, 862 F.3d 353, 355 (3d Cir. 2017) Co-lead counsel in suit that resulted in first ruling in the Third Circuit that civilians have a First Amendment right to observe and record on-duty police in the performance of their duties.
    • Flora, et al. v. Luzerne County, 776 F.3d 169, 171 (3d Cir. 2015) First Amendment retaliation claim brought by Chief Public Defender of Luzerne County who was fired after joining suit on behalf of the office clients to remedy chronic underfunding of public defender office. Successfully argued Third Circuit appeal reinstating the case, resulting in a ruling that expanded First Amendment rights of public employees.
    • B.H. v. Easton Areal School District, 725 F.3d 293 (3d Cir. 2013) (en banc) Obtained preliminary injunction allowing middle school girls to wear breast cancer awareness bracelets with the logo “i ♥ boobies! (KEEP A BREAST).” Argued the case on appeal to a panel, and then en banc. The school district’s petition for certiorari was denied.
    • League of Women Voters of PA v. DeGraffenreid, 265 A.3d 207 (Pa. 2021) Lead counsel in original jurisdiction action in Commonwealth Court that obtained unprecedented preliminary relief and ultimately permanent injunction barring certification of vote on “Marsy’s Law”, a proposed amendment to Pennsylvania Constitution that violated voters’ rights to vote on each proposed change to the Constitution. Successfully defended the Commonwealth Court win in argument to Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
    • Brodbeck v. National Rifle Association, 98-cv-05361 (E.D. Pa. 1999) Second chaired two-week jury trial. Obtained jury verdict for $4.4 million false light/defamation and related claims on behalf of NRA members who were accused by newly elected NRA president Charlton Heston of staging attack by NRA guard during national membership conference.
    • In re: Equimed, Inc., 05-cv-1815 (E.D. Pa. 2006) Second chaired AAA arbitration defending accounting firm against claim that firm’s resignation from audit of a public company caused company’s bankruptcy. Arbitration required twenty-five days of hearings over the course of twelve months, followed by several months (and hundreds of pages) of post-hearing submissions. The panel unanimously found for our client, which award we then successfully defended on appeal to federal district court.


    • “‘Unnecessary Harm’: The Link Between Ferguson and Philadelphia,” in The Legal Intelligencer, March 23, 2015.
    • “Marriage Equality: Does It Matter How You Win?” with Molly Tack-Hooper, ACLU of Pennsylvania, in The Legal Intelligencer, June 30, 2014.
    • “George Holliday: Hero or Criminal?” in The Legal Intelligencer, October 25, 2010.
    • “Getting What We Pay For: Indigent Defense In Pennsylvania,” in The Legal Intelligencer, August 31, 2009.
    • “The School-To-Prison Pipeline at Your Service,” with Sharon Kelly, Temple Law ’09, in The Legal Intelligencer, June 23, 2008.
    • “Trading Liberty For Security – How’s That Working For You?” in The Legal Intelligencer, January 22, 2007.
    • “Civil Rights in America After 9/11,” published in special “Terrorism” issue of HPD, the Law Review of the University of Istanbul, November 2005.
    • “Assisting Victims and Witnesses with Disabilities in the Criminal Justice System,” a curriculum for lawyers produced by the Pennsylvania’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Temple, 2003.


    • Philadelphia Barristers Association, Philadelphia Bar Association (active in the Public Interest Section, Delivery of Legal Services Committee, and Civil Rights Committee), Pennsylvania Bar Association (Civil and Equal Rights Committee), Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers,
    • University of Pennsylvania Inn of Court (member since 2005, Executive Board 2019-present).
    • Toll Public Interest Center Advisory Committee, University of Pennsylvania Law School, 2010 to 2021.
    • Youth Services, Inc., Board member 2002-22, Vice President 2011-2022.
    • Justice at Work (Formerly Friends of Farmworkers), Board member 2021 to present
    • Temple University Institute on Disabilities End the Silence Project, 1999 – 2001: Member of constituency panel advising grant funded initiative aimed at reducing violence against and abuse of people with disabilities through awareness, education, and sensitizing law enforcement and victims service providers to special needs and issues for this population.
    • Legal Intelligencer Lifetime Achievement Award 2016
    • Inaugural recipient, PA Bar Association GLBT Rights Committee David Rosenblum Public Policy Award – 2015
    • Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award 2012
    • Michael M. Greenberg Community Service Award, 2004
    • Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights Pro Bono Attorney of the Year, 2003
    • Named as one of Pennsylvania’s “Lawyers on the Fast Track”, 2003

Public Interest

Mary Catherine has been a leader in the Philadelphia public interest community and beyond for over 30 years. She has co-counselled cases and social justice initiatives with dozens of legal nonprofits, advancing racial and economic justice, freedom of speech, criminal justice reform, government transparency, and equality for LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities. Mary Catherine is a valued advisor and mentor for public interest lawyers and for law students hoping to pursue a public interest career.