Acting Solicitor General Noel Francisco, son of a Filipino doctor, described as ‘disciplined’ and an ‘outstanding musician’
By Cristina DC Pastor
If all goes well in the confirmation hearings, the next Solicitor General of the United States is a prominent Filipino American lawyer who was a clerk of the late conservative firebrand, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Noel John Francisco of Oswego, New York, is reported to be Donald Trump’s choice to be the next Solicitor General, described by Texas Senator Ted Cruz as a “principled conservative.”
Francisco has argued that Trump’s order banning immigration from six mostly Muslim countries is a decision only the president can make, and not open to any legal challenge.
“The power to expel or exclude aliens is a fundamental sovereign attribute, delegated by Congress to the executive branch of government and largely immune from judicial control,” he said in a widely published legal brief.
Filipino Americans are divided in their opinion of Francisco. Conservatives welcomed the appointment of a FilAm – the third so far — to the Trump administration, while liberals warned against too much rejoicing if the official will work against the interests of immigrant communities, including Filipinos.
Francisco is a partner in Washington D.C. law firm of Jones Day, where he chairs the Government Regulation practice. Friends who knew him from Oswego described him as an “outstanding musician,” “very smart and very funny,” and “made everyone feel special.”
He is set to take over from Neal Katyal, who was acting Solicitor General under President Barack Obama. Elena Kagan, the first woman to hold the title departed two months after she was named to the Supreme Court by Obama.
In announcing Francisco’s appointment as the Acting Solicitor General, the Department of Justice (DOJ) says he has appeared in several cases before the Supreme Court. He served as Associate Counsel to former President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2003 to 2005.
Francisco was raised in Upstate New York by an American mother, Therese, and a Filipino father, Nemesio, in the city of Oswego whose Asian population counted a little more than 1 percent, according to the 2015 U.S. Census. In this tiny, waterfront town, he attended Oswego High School where he graduated in 1987, according to an article on Francisco in Syracuse.com. He has a brother, David.
He received his B.A. with honors in 1991 from the University of Chicago, his law degree — also with high honors — from the University of Chicago Law School in 1996. He served as a law clerk first for Judge J. Michael Luttig of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and then later for Scalia.
“Noel was a wonderful student,” said Edward Lisk, band director of the Oswego High School marching band, where Francisco played the trombone. “I had him throughout his four years of high school. I also watched him and observed him through his elementary and middle school years, too, because he was a very well-mannered and disciplined student committed to excellence.”
Lisk’s comments appeared in Syracuse.com article. “Francisco never missed a lesson or rehearsal, Lisk continued. He had high expectations for success. He was very committed. He was an outstanding musician because he was dedicated.”
The article described Francisco’s father as a Filipino immigrant who later became Oswego’s beloved doctor. “He is the son of a Filipino immigrant who moved to the United States, speaking little English and without much money, to pursue a medical career that took him to Oswego in 1971.
“Nemesio Francisco would become one of the most beloved doctors in Oswego — taking calls at home and on weekends — before succumbing to cancer at age 53 in 1989.
“While growing up, Francisco rarely talked about his father’s journey from the Philippines. But when Noel returned to Oswego High School to deliver the 2013 commencement address, he talked about having the courage to accept difficult challenges in life. He cited his father as an example.”