President Donald Trump will nominate Noel Francisco to serve as U.S. solicitor general, the federal government’s permanent representative before the Supreme Court.
Francisco is currently serving as acting SG. The news was first reported by David Lat at Above the Law Tuesday afternoon.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of the solicitor general’s role in conducting the business of the high court. The SG is tasked with representing most federal agencies in Supreme Court litigation, and often files amicus (or “friend of the court”) briefs in cases where the government has a significant interest. Even if the U.S. is not party to a case the high court is hearing, the justices will often ask for the SG’s views, and include his opinion in their deliberations. As a result, the solicitor general’s office is typically involved in some capacity with two-thirds of the cases the Court decides annually, leading some to refer to the SG as the “10th justice.”
Prior to joining the U.S. Department of Justice, Francisco was a partner in the D.C. offices of Jones Day. The Trump-aligned firm has staffed key legal positions throughout the administration. Jones Day alum Don McGahn is currently serving as White House Counsel. His deputy, Greg Katsas, is also a veteran of the firm, as are Annie Donaldson, James Burnham, and David Morrell, who have joined the office in various capacities. William McGinley, another former Jones Day partner, was appointed as the president’s lead liaison to the cabinet.
Francisco has argued before the Supreme Court on several occasions, including two high-profile cases from recent sittings. He represented former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in a case concerning the scope of a federal anti-corruption law, where he secured a unanimous ruling in the disgraced governor’s favor. He also represented the Little Sisters of the Poor in their challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. That case was sent back to a lower court in May 2016, in hopes the parties could reach a compromise.
In addition to his private sector work, Francisco served in the White House counsel’s office during the administration of President George W. Bush. He was a member of the legal team representing Bush during the bitter recount fight in Florida during the 2000 election. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
If his nomination succeeds, he will be the first Asian-American confirmed by the Senate to serve as solicitor general.
Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway III, was thought to be a frontrunner for the post. Mr. Conway practices at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a powerhouse law firm based in New York.
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