Noel J. Francisco of Jones Day
Noel J. Francisco of Jones Day (Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL)

Jones Day partner Noel Francisco is leaving the firm amid speculation that he could soon become solicitor general or principal deputy solicitor general in the Trump administration.

Francisco, who has argued in several high-profile U.S. Supreme Court cases, did not immediately return calls for comment.

But a filing Wednesday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a case that he was handling stated that Francisco is “leaving employment with Jones Day” and the case is being taken over by another lawyer at the firm.

Above the Law on January 13 predicted that Francisco would be principal deputy solicitor general, a position that would not need Senate confirmation, meaning that he could move into the office quickly, well before a solicitor general nominee would be confirmed.

A former law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia and to former Judge J. Michael Luttig of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Francisco served in the George W. Bush administration as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, and associate White House counsel.  

Francisco argued sucessfully in McDonnell v. United States last year, reversing the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell. He also won a significant separation of powers case involving presidential recess appointments in the 2014 case National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning.

In the McDonnell case, Francisco made a misstep that put him in the same company of several previous solicitors general: he mistakenly addressed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as “Justice O’Connor.”

Ginsburg responded with a smile, “That hasn’t happened in quite some time.” Francisco quickly made amends: “Justice Ginsburg, I am very, very, very sorry. Justice Ginsburg, my apologies.”