Counsel Spécial

Charles A. Rothfeld

Professional Liability, Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Supreme Court & Appellate

“Market sources call Charles Rothfeld a ‘genius.’”
Chambers USA (2014)


Charles Rothfeld, recognized by the National Law Journal as “one of the leading members of the Supreme Court bar” and by USA Today as one of an “elite private-sector group of lawyers who dominate advocacy at the Supreme Court,” focuses his practice on Supreme Court & Appellate litigation. His appellate experience has earned him repeated listings in Chambers USA, which in 2014 noted his description by clients as a “genius” for his work on “a vast number of Supreme Court appeals.” That work also has earned him recognition in Best Lawyers in America, characterization as one of “Washington’s top lawyers” by Washingtonian Magazine, and listing on the National Law Journal’s “Appellate Hot List.” He has worked on more than 200 cases before the United States Supreme Court and on hundreds of other cases before federal and state appellate courts. Charles has argued 31 cases before the US Supreme Court.

Since joining Mayer Brown in 1991, Charles has represented foreign governments, states, municipalities, members of Congress, Indian tribes, groups of state and local officials, and leading academics before the Supreme Court. His representations also have included Fortune 500 companies and other businesses in a range of industries, for which he has worked on cases involving various aspects of constitutional law — including the Commerce and Due Process clauses, equal protection, the Takings Clause, and the speech and religion clauses of the First Amendment — as well as antitrust, banking, securities regulation, patent and trademark law, taxation, ERISA, criminal law, and international law.

Among his recent Supreme Court cases, Charles successfully argued before the Court on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines and the Philippine National Bank in an effort to reclaim assets stolen by former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. His argument in Polar Tankers, Inc. v. City of Valdez was the first since the nineteenth century to persuade the Court to invalidate a state tax under the Constitution’s Tonnage Clause. And this past year, his arguments in federal courts of appeals led to decisions that set the standard governing the obligations of trustees in the trillion-dollar mortgage-backed securities market; that clarify the rules limiting class-action standing; and that affirm the protections afforded lobbying activity by the First Amendment.

Charles is a founder and co-director of the Yale Law School’s Supreme Court Clinic, which is among the largest and most successful appellate advocacy programs in the nation. Over the past nine years, students in the Yale Clinic have worked on more than 75 cases in the Supreme Court at the merits and certiorari petition stages. Charles’ work with the Yale Clinic is part of a substantial pro bono practice in which he has handled civil rights, immigration, voting, and criminal law cases; Charles has argued six of these cases pro bono in the US Supreme Court.

In addition, Charles is a member of the Board of Advisors of Georgetown University Law Center’s Supreme Court Institute. He has served as a faculty member in the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Supreme Court advocacy program and is a judge in NAAG’s annual “Best Supreme Court Brief” competition. He is a regular participant in moot courts for NAAG, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgetown Supreme Court Institute. He has published widely on the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and appellate advocacy, most recently in the Harvard Law Review Forum, and is one of the co-authors of Federal Appellate Practice, published by BNA Books. He is a regular source of commentary on the Supreme Court for newspapers and broadcasters.

Prior to joining Mayer Brown, Charles served as Special Counsel for the State and Local Legal Center (1988–1990) and as Assistant to the Solicitor General, US Department of Justice (1984–1988), where he had primary responsibility for handling the federal government’s Supreme Court litigation in the areas of banking and securities regulation. From 1982 to 1984, he worked with another law firm in Washington, DC. Earlier, Charles served as a law clerk to Justice Harry A. Blackmun, US Supreme Court (1981–1982) and to Chief Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III, US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (1980–1981).


  • The University of Chicago Law School, JD, cum laude
    Articles Editor, University of Chicago Law Review, Joseph Henry Beale Prize for outstanding legal writing
  • Cornell University, AB, cum laude
    Editor-in-Chief, Cornell Daily Sun

Inscription au Barreau

  • District of Columbia
  • New York


  • US Supreme Court
  • US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • US District Court for the District of Columbia
  • US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • 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


  • Anglais

Engagement professionnel et communautaire

  • Co-Director, Yale Law School Supreme Court Clinic, 2006-Present
  • Advisory Board, State and Local Legal Center, 1991- Present
  • Counsel, US House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the United States Role in Iranian Arms Transfers to Croatia and Bosnia, 1996
  • Consultant, HUD Independent Counsel inquiry, 1991–1996
  • Special Associate Independent Counsel, Iran-Contra inquiry, 1990–1992
  • Consultant to Federal Courts Study Committee, 1989–1990
  • Regular lecturer and panelist on the Supreme Court