Paul Smith of Jenner & Block.
Paul Smith of Jenner & Block. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Paul Smith, who argued and won the historic U.S. Supreme Court gay rights case Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, is leaving his partnership at Jenner & Block to teach at Georgetown University Law Center and to litigate for voting rights and campaign reform at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit.

“I am thrilled to be joining the country’s top legal shop fighting for our democracy,” Smith said in a statement obtained by The National Law Journal late Tuesday. “Now, more than ever, we must commit to ensuring that every American can participate in choosing our elected officials and holding those officials accountable once they are in office. I’m looking forward to getting to work.”

Neither Smith nor leaders of Jenner or the center would comment Tuesday night, but a formal announcement of Smith’s move is expected Wednesday morning.

While best known for his gay rights victory, Smith has also argued before the high court in numerous redistricting cases and in First Amendment disputes as well. He has argued in 19 cases before the Supreme Court. While at Jenner, he chaired the firm’s appellate and Supreme Court practice and was co-chair of the media and First Amendment, and election law and redistricting practices. Smith had worked side-by-side at Jenner with Donald Verrilli Jr. until Verrilli went to the Obama Justice Department in 2009. Last year, Verrilli left his position as solicitor general to open a Washington office for Munger, Tolles and Olson.

Trevor Potter, president of the center, linked Smith’s arrival to the November election. “The 2016 election made it exceptionally clear: Our democracy is not working as it should. Currently, office holders are too responsive to special interests while legislators are manipulating voting maps to stay in power.”

The move almost certainly means a pay cut for Smith. The American Lawyer reported last year that partners at Jenner were being paid on average $1.7 million in 2015.

“All of us at Jenner & Block will greatly miss Paul,” said Terrence Truax, Jenner & Block’s managing partner, in the statement obtained Tuesday. “But we also are excited to see him begin the next chapter of a remarkable career, using his many talents at Georgetown Law School and the Campaign Legal Center on election law issues. Paul’s accomplishments are legendary, from his groundbreaking work in Lawrence v. Texas, to his more recent leadership on a range of issues focused on equal protection for all Americans.”