Charles  A. Zdebski washington

Charles A. Zdebski



Charlie Zdebski serves as litigation, regulatory, and transactional counsel to energy and telecommunications companies on varied issues of infrastructure and facilities deployment, operations, and access. For those clients, he has also handled international shipping, marine contract, and customs issues. He also represents individuals and families on issues of education law on a reduced-fee and pro bono basis.

Charlie is a litigator who focuses on complex regulatory litigation and civil litigation matters, often involving the intersection of the two and parallel proceedings.  He has handled numerous agency investigations, proceedings and appeals and related civil proceedings.  His aviation experience includes defending clients against class action lawsuits, representing clients in DOT and TSA investigations, litigating breach of contract matters, resolving “No Fly” list issues and prosecuting appeals from agency decisions.  

Representative Matters

  • Lead counsel in defending numerous class actions. These class actions often involve clients that are highly regulated and the interplay between regulation and civil liability. Examples include breach of tariff and breach of contract claims, unfair and deceptive trade practices claims, unlawful pricing claims, federal and state privacy protection claims, federal financial consumer protection claims and property rights claims.
  • In rights-of-way access and license cases, lead counsel to telecommunications carrier in negotiations and lawsuits against railroad carriers regarding the scope and cost of rights the rail carriers may lawfully assign to telecommunications carriers
  • In multiple State Attorneys General investigations into pricing and marketing practices of major energy suppliers, lead defense counsel for all aspects of proceedings.
  • Protected and counseled wholesale energy market trading company through every aspect of FERC audit, leading to closure of audit by FERC with no recommendations and no findings.
  • TCPA class action defense counsel in multiple cases against energy clients, leading to successful resolutions through either dismissal or favorable settlement.
  • Spectrum relocation counsel to nationwide telecommunications carrier in negotiation and dispute resolution with another carrier regarding client’s relocation from auctioned Advanced Wireless Spectrum to other spectrum.
  • Plaintiff’s counsel to energy trading affiliate of Fortune 20 investor-owned utility (“IOU”) in successful litigation arising from international coal supplier’s breach of coal supply agreement.
  • Regulatory and transactional counsel to telecommunications companies regarding network facilities deployment and access issues.
  • Plaintiff’s counsel to generation company in successful claim against electric distribution company for payment of costs under an interconnection agreement imposed in violation of FERC regulations.
  • FCC counsel to Southern Company and affiliates, Ameren and affiliates, Dominion Virginia Power, and Conectiv regarding network access and pricing issues, including pole attachment issues.
  • Lead counsel to Fortune 50 IOU in federal and state law claims for breach of facilities license agreement.
  • Regulatory counsel to electric utility communications affiliates regarding development and deployment of broadband communications over power lines network.
  • Lead counsel to Fortune 20 IOU in successful defense of property rights claim brought by state governmental agencies.
  • Defense counsel to investor-owned electric utilities and telecommunications affiliates in fiber optic right-of-way class actions.
  • Multi-jurisdictional litigation counsel to owner of major FERC-licensed hydropower project in numerous state, federal, appellate, and agency cases regarding administration and operation of project, environmental impacts, and personal injury claims.
  • Counsel to electric utility owners of FCC radio licenses regarding regulatory issues.
  • Federal appellate counsel to numerous investor-owned electric utilities in challenges to several FCC decisions regarding network access and pricing issues.
  • Litigation counsel to Southern Company and affiliates, Ameren and affiliates and Dominion Virginia Power regarding network access and pricing issues.
  • Trial counsel to Fortune 500 company in breach of indemnification agreement claim arising from $6.7 billion asset purchase.
  • Represent hot oil pipeline owner in NTSB and DOT spill investigation proceedings.
  • Defense counsel to consumer lending companies in nationwide consumer finance class actions.
  • Litigation counsel to corporate executives in ERISA and phantom stock claims.
  • Trial counsel to engine parts manufacturer defending contract and franchise act claims arising from termination of distribution agreement.
  • Litigation counsel to major hotel/resort corporation.
  • Trial counsel to major retail chain in defense of numerous property loss/damage claims.

Published Cases: Complex Litigation

  • Potomac Electric Power Co. v. Mirant Corp., 2003 U.S. Dist. Lexis 3487 (D.D.C. 2003) (denying plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in favor of client Mirant because indemnification provision in asset purchase agreement susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation).
  • Leach v. Mr. Cash, Inc., 2000 U.S. Dist. Lexis 20651 (D. Md. 2000) (granting defendant’s/client’s motion to dismiss Maryland Commercial Law claim for failure to make statutorily required loan disclosures because statute provides no civil penalties).
  • Hahn v. National Cash Advance, 61 F. Supp. 2d 813 (C.D. Ill.1999) (holding that, under the Truth in Lending Act and Illinois law, a negotiable instrument can be security for repayment of a loan).
  • In re: Estate of William C. Frogale, 1997 Va. Cir. Lexis 145 (Cir.Ct. Fairfax Cty., Va. 1997) (holding that, where consideration under irrevocable guaranty does not pass all at once, the guaranty terminates upon guarantor’s death).
  • Mercer Management Consulting, Inc. v. Wilde, 920 F. Supp. 219(D.D.C. 1996) (enforcing non-solicit covenant against management consultants who started a competing firm and successfully solicited a division of plaintiff’s corporate client).
  • Walton v. Lindler, 1994 U.S. App. Lexis 19397 (4th Cir. 1994)(conviction on two counts of cocaine distribution from two contemporaneous sales to same two officers did not violate defendant’s constitutional protection from double jeopardy).

Published Cases: Telecommunications

  • Kansas City Power & Light Co. v. American Fiber Systems, 2003 U.S. Dist. Lexis 20983 (D. Kan. 2003) (granting client’s motion to dismiss because Telecommunications Act did not create private right of action).
  • Georgia Power Company v. Teleport Communications, Atlanta, Inc., 346 F.3d 1033 (11th Cir. 2003) (absent sufficient rate data from either party, FCC had authority to use its own estimated data to calculate rate).
  • Cavalier Telephone, LLC v. Virginia Electric and Power Co., 17 FCC Rcd 20651 (2002)(granting client’s/defendant’s motion to vacate earlier unfavorable holding by Cable Services Bureau in related pole attachment litigation).
  • UCA, L.L.C., d/b/a Adelphia Cable Communications v. Lansdowne Community Development, LLC, et al., 215 F. Supp. 2d 742 (E.D.Va. 2002) (holding that communications company would not obtain access to electric utility’s/client’s rights of way because the utility had no commercial communications rights to apportion).
  • Southern Company v. FCC, 313 F.3d 574 (D.C. Cir. 2002)(holding that FCC rulemakings were entitled to deference under 1996 Telecommunications Act).
  • Southern Company v. FCC, 293 F.3d 1338 (11th Cir. 2002)(holding that electric utilities/clients were not required to provide communications companies with access to transmission facilities or to create additional infrastructure capacity upon demand).
  • National Cable and Telecommunications Association v. Gulf Power Company, 534 U.S. 327 (2002) (holding that 1996 Telecommunications Act required mandatory access for cable modem service attachments and wireless communications attachments to utility infrastructure).

Published Cases: Hydroelectric

  • Coalition for Fair and Equitable Regulation of Docks v. FERC, 297 F.3d 771 (8th Cir. 2002) (holding that client/electric utility’s administration of dock permitting and fee program under FERC hydropower project license was proper pursuant to FERC’s authority under the Federal Power Act to impose comprehensive conditions on licensees).
  • Missouri Coalition for the Environment v. FERC, 544 F.3d 955 (8th Cir. 2008) (rejecting NEPA challenge to FERC project rebuild authorization orders, based on claim that rebuild authorization should be addressed in ongoing relicensing proceeding).
  • Duncan’s Point v. FERC, 522 F.3d 371 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (denying petitions for review, finding that the Commission had acted reasonably throughout the controversy.

Education Law

  • Defense of student charged with misconduct and potential criminal behavior in school disciplinary proceedings.
  • Litigation counsel to PhD student in breach of contract and constitutional law claims against university for wrongful allegations of unprofessional conduct.
  • IEP counsel – consult, advocate and negotiate on numerous IEP’s and amendments, including litigation of due process claims when necessary and appropriate.
  • Advocate and negotiate for resolution of university disciplinary charges regarding undergraduate student.
  • Regular resolution of FOIA and FERPA issues regarding student records.
  • Successful trial and appellate counsel in actions requiring public schools to reimburse for parentally-designed private education.
  • Settlement of claims against school system for failure to provide appropriate education and refusal to compensate for private schooling.
  • Negotiated resolution of situation involving student with learning disability threatened with expulsion for misconduct.

International Shipping, Marine Contracts, & Customs

  • Advise purchasers and sellers in negotiating and administering shipping contracts and other related contracts.
  • Lead counsel in litigation and dispute resolution proceedings arising under the interpretation and performance of shipping and related contracts.
  • Represent domestic and international companies in matters involving U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including HTSUS and duty issues.

Professional Affiliations

  • Virginia State Bar Professionalism Course Faculty, Past Member
  • District of Columbia Bar Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law, Past Member

News and Insights


Speaking Engagements

  • “Telecommunications Law,” co-presenter, National Business Institute live teleconference program, December 19, 2017.
  • “Solid Fuel Contracting Issues,” AES Corporation Continuing Legal Education (CLE), October 2012.
  • “Get Plugged In: What the FCC’s National Broadband Plan Means to Electric Utilities, Communications Companies and Their Customers,” webinar, Eckert Seamans, March 19, 2010.
  • “Smart Grid: What Is It and What Does It Mean To You?” webinar, Eckert Seamans, November 2009.
  • “The New FCC,” webinar, Heartland, November 2009.
  • “Issues in Telecommunications Law for Electric Utility Lawyers,” CLE, June 2009.
  • “Straight Talk on Tough Infrastructure Access Issues,” Southeastern Electric Exchange (‘SEE’) 75th Anniversary, June 2008.
  • “Joint Use Issues & Strategy,” Fall 2007 Heartland Meeting of Joint Power & Communications, November 2007.
  • “Legislative Update – What’s Happening on the Hill?” SEE Joint Use Committee Meeting, October 2007.
  • “Learning Forum,” SEE Joint Use Committee Meeting, October 2007.