Noel Francisco steps down as Solicitor General

Attorney General William Barr calls him ‘a respected leader’ and a ‘good friend.’ Photo:

Solicitor General Noel Francisco has stepped down from the Department of Justice on July 3. The first Asian American to be confirmed by the Senate as solicitor general said representing the United States before the Supreme Court is “one of the greatest jobs in the law.”

“It has been the honor of my professional career to serve as the Solicitor General of the United States,” he said in a press statement.

Under Francisco’s leadership, according to a press release from the Department of Justice (DoJ), the U.S. “consistently and successfully advocated in support of our nation’s core Constitutional principles including religious liberty, separation of powers, first amendment freedoms and enforcement of immigration laws.” 

He argued before the Supreme Court 17 times, including the following:

  • Trump v. Hawaii: upholding the President’s restrictions on travel from countries that present national-security risks.
  • Janus v. AFSCME: holding that the First Amendment prohibits requiring public employees who decline to join a union to pay union dues (overruling a 1977 decision, Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Education).
  • Kisor v. Wilkie: significantly limiting judicial deference to agency interpretations of their own regulations while retaining such deference in core applications.
  • Knick v. Township of Scott:  allowing property owners to bring claims for government takings in federal court without first suing in state court (overruling a 1985 decision, Williamson County Regional Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank).
  • Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n: concluding that Colorado violated the Free Exercise Clause in enforcing its antidiscrimination law against a baker who declined on religious grounds to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding.

In overseeing federal litigation, says the statement, the government obtained relief from the Supreme Court on major immigration initiatives, including the travel proclamation, restrictions on asylum abuses, allocation of funds to build a border wall, and revisions to the definition of a public charge. 

“Solicitor General Noel Francisco has represented the United States superbly before the Supreme Court for the past three terms,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.  “Arguing before the Court 17 times on behalf of the federal government, he has been a principled and persuasive advocate on issues ranging from the separation of powers to religious liberty to vigorous enforcement of federal immigration law.  His skilled advocacy has been instrumental to historic victories on behalf of the President’s national security authority, the free speech rights of public employees, and property owners’ access to federal courts, among many other significant accomplishments.  Away from the courtroom, he has been a steady and respected leader for the Office of the Solicitor General, a wise counselor to me and others in the Executive Branch, and a good friend.  I am grateful for his tireless service to his country and the Department of Justice, and I wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Since his appointment in 2017, Francisco has represented the United States before the nation’s highest court in more than 150 merit cases.

Francisco was raised in Upstate New York by an American mother, Therese, and a Filipino father, Nemesia, 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 the Oswego High School where he graduated in 1987. 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 later for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Francisco was a partner in the Washington D.C. law firm Jones Day before he joined the Trump Administration. Reports say he will return to private practice at his old law office.

© The FilAm 2020

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