Areas of Practice
  • Harvard Law School, J.D., magna cum laude, 1976, Senior Note Editor, Harvard Law Review
  • Yale University, B.A., summa cum laude, 1973
Judicial Clerkships
  • Hon. Byron R. White, US Supreme Court, 1977-1978
  • Hon. Harold Leventhal, US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1976-1977
Bar & Court Admissions
  • District of Columbia
  • US Supreme Court
  • US Tax Court
  • US District Court, District of Columbia
  • US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
  • US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Charles G. Cole

1330 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20036
TEL: +1 202 429 6270
FAX: +1 202 429 3902

Charles G. Cole, a partner in Steptoe’s Washington office, is the chair of the firm’s national Appellate Group.  He has obtained favorable results for his clients at every level of the appellate process.

US Supreme Court
A former clerk to the late Justice Byron R. White, Mr. Cole has won two 9-0 victories in the US Supreme Court.  In 2001, Mr. Cole argued for the petitioner in Atkinson Trading Company v. Shirley and won a unanimous decision on the scope of tribal sovereignty.  In 2008, he represented the petitioner in USEC v Eurodif, and secured a 9-0 decision reaffirming the scope of the international trade laws. Mr. Cole has also won split decisions, such as in  2002, when he served as counsel to Respondent Edison Electric Institute in New York v. FERC, and successfully defended the preemptive scope of a federal regulation.  Other Supreme Court cases in which Mr. Cole has participated have involved, constitutional law, administrative law and railroad regulation.  Mr. Cole has also filed amicus briefs in the US Supreme Court on behalf of organizations such as the American Bar Association and the Association of American Railroads.  See Mr. Cole’s representative matters before the US Supreme Court.

Federal Appeals
Mr. Cole has handled appeals in every federal circuit.  His federal appeals have concerned issues of preemption, administrative law, railroad law, insurance law, tribal law, punitive damages, bankruptcy, and constitutional law.  He has advised on interlocutory appeals, including preliminary injunctions and extraordinary writs.  See Mr. Cole’s representative federal circuit appeals.

State Appeals
Mr. Cole has also argued or briefed appeals in a wide variety of state courts.  Within the last decade, he has won state appeals in California, New York, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Montana and West Virginia.  See Mr. Cole’s representative state appeals.

Federal Regulation
Mr. Cole has dealt with many of the most difficult federal regulatory schemes, including statutes applicable to the railroad, energy, banking, and communications industries.  Mr. Cole has also advised on some of the most intricate requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

Trial Court Advice
Based on his appellate experience, Mr. Cole has been asked to provide assistance on legal issues at the trial level.  He has advised on motions practice, jury instructions, evidentiary questions, and civil procedure.  He has provided help to trial counsel on punitive damages, federal preemption, expert selection, and venue. 

Speaking on Appellate Practice
Mr. Cole has spoken on almost every aspect of the appellate process, including the preservation of error, the preparation of appellate briefs, obtaining discretionary review through the certiorari process, and oral argument.  Mr. Cole currently serves as a judge in the moot court programs for US Supreme Court advocates sponsored by the Georgetown Supreme Court Institute and the National Association of Attorneys General.  

Select Speaking Engagements

  • You Only Live Twice: Apportionment After Ayers, NARTC Annual Meeting, Santa Barbara, California, July 31, 2012
  • McBride: Whether the FELA Requires Proof of Proximate Causation, NARTC Annual Meeting, Quebec City, Canada, July 25, 2011
  • Miami Advice: Putting the Law of Preemption in Order, NARTC Winter Meeting, Miami, Florida, March 8, 2011
  • Preemption Update: Tortbusters, National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel (NARTC) Annual Meeting, (Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 28, 2010)
  • Non-Members and Non-Citizens: How the Supreme Court Protects Outsiders in Tribal Courts, AJEI Summit, Scottsdale, AZ, November 14, 2008
  • 2008 Preemption Update: How the West Was Won, NARTC Summer Meeting (Banff, Alberta, Canada, August 7, 2008)
  • The Empire Strikes Back: The Tort Lawyers' New Attack on Federal Preemption and How to Defend Against It, NARTC Fall Meeting (Austin, TX, October 12, 2007)
  • Punitive Damages and the Constitution: Where We Go After Philip Morris, Appellate Judges Education Institute Annual Summit (Washington, DC, September 28, 2007)
  • Post-Trial Motions and the Preservation of Error for Appeal, NARTC Winter Meeting, Sea Island, Georgia, March 6, 2007

Representative Matters

US Supreme Court

  • United States v. Eurodif, 555 U.S. 305 (2009) — Obtained unanimous decision on applicability of US antidumping laws to uranium enrichment contracts.
  • United States v. Navajo Nation, 556 U.S. 287 (2009) — Filed amicus brief on behalf of an electric utility and obtained reversal of Federal Circuit decision.
  • New York v. FERC, 535 U.S. 1 (2002) — Represented Edison Electric Institute as respondent and obtained affirmance of FERC order delineating federal preemption of state jurisdiction over retail transmission.
  • Atkinson Trading Co. v. Shirley, 532 U.S. 645 (2001) — Represented hotel on private land within reservation, obtained 9-0 decision invalidating tribal tax (argued).
  • Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co. v. United States, 556 U.S. 599 (2009) — Served as co-counsel in a case viewed as a watershed in CERCLA Superfund practice.  Entered the case after an adverse panel decision and wrote the petition for rehearing en banc, which garnered eight dissenting votes in the Ninth Circuit.  The US Supreme Court granted cert and reversed, by vote of 8-1.
  • Hudson v. AEP Texas North, 128 S. Ct. 59 (Oct. 1, 2007) — Represented electric utility, obtained denial of state’s petition for certiorari challenging federal preemption of state regulatory jurisdiction.

Recent Federal Circuit Appeals

  • Weitz Company LLC v. Lexington Ins. Co., No. 13-3744 (8th Cir. May 12, 2015) — Represented insurance companies faced with a $47 million subrogation claim and persuaded the Eighth Circuit to reject it on equitable grounds (argued).
  • Millennium Inorganic Chem. Ltd. v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3096 (4th Cir. 2014) — Represented an insurance company in a case involving a $10 million claim for contingent business interruption insurance and obtained a reversal of a grant of summary judgment against the insurer and entry of judgment in favor of the insurer (argued).
  • Federal Trade Commission v. The Western Union Company, No.13-3100 (2d Cir. October 7, 2014) — Represented company served with a government agency subpoena;  obtained an order from the court of appeals vacating enforcement and remanding for further findings (argued).
  • Southern California Edison v. FERC, 717 F.3d 177 (D.C. Cir. 2013) — On behalf of utility, challenged FERC's methodology for establishing ROE on transmission assets (argued).
  • Rhodes v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 636 F.3d 88 (4th Cir. 2011)— In water contamination case, obtained  decision upholding summary judgment against claims for negligence, trespass, nuisance, and battery and denying  class certification on medical monitoring (argued).
  • Southern Cal. Edison Co. v. FERC, 603 F.3d 996 (DC Cir. 2010) — Represented Southern California Edison in successful challenge to FERC’s authority to set the measurement period for the sale of station power. 
  • Esso Standard Oil Co. v. Lopez-Freytes, 522 F.3d 136 (1st Cir. 2008) — Obtained decision holding that local environmental agency violated due process in proposing large fine against Exxon subsidiary (argued).

See a complete list of Mr. Cole’s recent federal circuit appeals

Recent State Appeals

  • Mundt v. BNSF Ry.Co., 2013 CA1257 (Colo.Ct App March 26, 2015)  — Represented railroad defendant in FELA case and achieved a 75% reduction in judgment based on a pre-existing condition.
  • Arnold v. The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, No. COA14-715 (N.C. Ct. of App. Dec. 31, 2014 — Represented insurance company in interlocutory appeal of $2.4 million discovery sanction and obtained vacatur of sanctions order.
  • Arizona v. Western Union Financial Services, Inc., 208 P.3d 218 (Ariz. 2009) — Represented financial services company in appeal raising issues of first impression under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment regarding a state’s personal jurisdiction over corporation’s wire transfers from other states to Mexico.  Obtained holding that the State of Arizona lacked personal jurisdiction to issue a warrant to seize out-of-state wire transfers (argued).

See a complete list of Mr. Cole’s recent state appeals


  • "Lawyer of the Year," The Best Lawyers in America, Railroad Law (DC), 2016, 2018
  • The Best Lawyers in America, Railroad Law, 2015-2018
  • "Distinguished Recognition Award,”  National Association of Attorneys General Supreme Court Seminar, 2014
  • Recognition of Excellence Award from National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel, Dec. 2008
  • Burton Award for Achievement in Legal Writing, 2000
  • Chair, ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers, 2004-2005
  • "Honorable Mention" in Exemplary Legal Writing from the 2007 Green Bag Almanac for amicus brief on behalf of 18 former chief justices in Dimick v. Republican Party of Minnesota, 126 S.Ct. 1165 (2006)

Select News & Events

Selected Publications

  • Judging Federal Regulations That Preempt State Law: The Role of the Presumption Against Preemption
    2003, The Journal of Appellate Practice and Process
  • Legal Standards Governing Investment of Pension Assets for Social and Political Goals
    128 U.Pa.L.Rev. 1340
  • Moot Courts: Scrimmage for the Appellate Lawyer
    1999, The Litigation Manual
  • Petitioning for Certiorari in the Big Case
    1999, The Litigation Manual
  • How Your Case Can Catch the Supreme Court's Eye
    1987, The Criminal Justice Magazine

Professional Affiliations

  • Chair, Council of Appellate Lawyers, American Bar Association, 2004-2005
  • Board Member, Council of Appellate Lawyers, American Bar Association, 2000-2006
  • Co-Chair, Amicus Briefs Committee, Criminal Justice Section, American Bar Association, 1983-1988
  • Appellate Practice Committee, Litigation Section, American Bar Association, 1998-present
  • Executive Committee, National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel, 2007-present
  • American Bankruptcy Institute
  • Edward Coke Appellate Inn of Court, 2002-present
  • Project Advisory Board, State of Criminal Justice, American Bar Association, 1994-2000