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Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who argued Trump positions before Supreme Court, leaving DOJ

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U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco departs the U.S. Supreme Court

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Solicitor General Noel Francisco is leaving the Department of Justice, according to a press release issued on Wednesday. 

Francisco defended Trump administration policies before the Supreme Court. It is typical for solicitors general to depart toward the end of the Supreme Court’s term in June. 

The role made Francisco the chief legal face of many Trump administration initiatives since he took the job in September of 2017.

“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,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. 

Outside of legal circles, Francisco managed to fly largely under the radar.

A brief exception came in the fall of 2018 when it appeared that he was likely to take over for then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and oversee the investigation into Russian interference that was being led by former special counsel Robert Mueller. But Rosenstein stayed in the job, and Francisco was never tapped to fill in. 

Francisco was largely successful in defending Trump policies before the top court. A major win for the conservative attorney came in 2018, when the justices upheld a version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which applied to several Muslim majority countries. The following year, the justices handed Francisco a loss in a dispute over whether the Trump administration could add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

Francisco argued in a number of potential blockbuster cases during the court’s current term, which began in October.

In one of the most high-profile disputes, Francisco advocated for Trump’s authority to end the Obama-era immigration program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which shields hundreds of thousands of young migrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation. 

In two cases argued in October, the Washington lawyer urged the justices not to apply the Civil Rights Act to LGBT workers in two cases argued in October. The Supreme Court ruled that the law applied to gay and transgender workers in a blockbuster ruling on Monday. 

In May, during historic arguments held via teleconference as a precaution against coronavirus, Francisco defended Trump administration rules providing more flexibility to religious employers to deny contraceptive coverage. That month, Francisco also supported Trump’s private attorneys in an argument over whether the president’s longtime accounting firm must comply with a subpoena to turn over his tax records to the Manhattan district attorney. 

In a statement, Francisco said his role was “one of the greatest jobs in the law and an opportunity for which I am deeply grateful.”

“I am proud of the significant success the Office of Solicitor General has had in advancing the rule of law of in our great nation alongside the dedicated men and women at the Department of Justice — some of the finest lawyers I have known,” he said. 

Before Francisco joined the Trump administration, he was an attorney at the law firm Jones Day, a cultivator of Republican legal talent. He worked as an attorney at the White House under President George W. Bush between 2001 and 2003, and served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2003 to 2005. 

Early in his career, Francisco served as a law clerk to Antonin Scalia, the former Supreme Court justice and influential conservative.

This is breaking news. Check back for updates. 

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