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U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco Returns to Jones Day (1)

July 15, 2020, 2:40 PM; Updated: July 15, 2020, 5:51 PM

Noel Francisco is rejoining Jones Day’s Washington office after serving three busy years as U.S. solicitor general that included arguing 17 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Trump administration.

Since stepping into the role in September of 2017, Francisco argued cases that dealt with issues ranging from religious liberty and free speech to separation of powers. They included a successful defense of President Donald Trump’s orders restricting travel from countries deemed to be security risks, in Trump v. Hawaii, and a ruling that vindicated the First Amendment rights of public employees who decline to join a union, in Janus v. AFSCME.

Francisco left the solicitor general’s office July 3, a job he called “the honor of my professional career.”

Francisco defended Trump in several highly charged legal matters from his perch as solicitor general.

He sought to prevent Congress from gaining access to a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He also defended the Justice Department’s decision to withdraw its case against former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn, even though Flynn had already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

In his first stint with Jones Day starting in 2005, Francisco chaired the firm’s government regulation practice. During that time, he argued a number of cases before the high court, including McDonnell v. United States, in which a unanimous court overturned the federal bribery conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R).

Jones Day has served as a popular source of legal talent for the Trump administration, which has appointed the Big Law firm’s attorneys to fill a number of positions, perhaps most notably former White House counsel Donald McGahn.

Trump also selected several others from the firm for prime posts both at the White House and the Justice Department, including Greg Katsas, as deputy counsel to the president; Bill McGinley, who became deputy assistant to the president and cabinet secretary; and John Gore, who served as deputy assistant attorney general for DOJ’s Civil Rights Division before returning to the firm.

“The partners, lawyers and professional staff of Jones Day have always held Noel in the highest regard both professionally and personally,” Jones Day’s Managing Partner Stephen Brogan said in a statement. “We are confident that in the years ahead Noel will be of critical help to our clients as a strong and creative advocate and as a trusted and thoughtful advisor.”

Francisco left Jones Day in January 2017 when Trump appointed him as principal deputy solicitor general. After a short stint as acting solicitor general, he was confirmed by the Senate to the permanent post in September of that year.

It was not Francisco’s first time in government service. Francisco served in the George W. Bush White House beginning in 2001, first as associate counsel to Bush, before moving in 2003 to become a deputy assistant attorney general in DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Francisco is one of a few top Justice Department officials to have announced their departures in recent weeks.

Joseph “Jody” Hunt left DOJ earlier this month after a 21-year career with the agency, including the last two as head of the Justice Department’s civil division. He’s headed to Alston & Bird as senior counsel in the firm’s litigation and trial practice group.

Brian Benczkowski, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division since 2017, has also said he’ll be leaving DOJ. Though he worked as a partner with Kirkland & Ellis from 2010 to 2017, he hasn’t disclosed any next moves.

(This story version includes several new paragraphs, including the fourth, fifth, eighth, and the tenth through the fourteenth, which add new details about Francisco's background, and the nexus between Jones Day and the Trump administration.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Skolnik in Washington at sskolnik@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com

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