Solicitor General Noel Francisco stepping down from DOJ next month

U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco has announced that he will step down from his Justice Department role on July 3 after having represented the Trump administration in over 150 cases before the Supreme Court, according to the Washington Examiner.

Francisco was appointed by Trump in 2017 and played a critical role in the success of Trump’s national security travel ban. In addition, Francisco successfully challenged many lower court injunctions that attempted to block Trump administration orders, so much so that some lower court judges ceased using that particular form of legal remedy, according to a DOJ press release detailing Francisco’s departure plans.

Several key DOJ figures to exit

In announcing his decision to leave his position, Francisco expressed sincere appreciation for his colleagues, saying:

Representing the United States before the Supreme Court is 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 … in our great nation alongside the dedicated men and women at the Department of Justice — some of the finest lawyers I have known.

He also declared it to have been an honor to serve as solicitor general.

Attorney General William Barr called Francisco’s work “instrumental” to many Trump legal victories.

“Solicitor General Noel Francisco has represented the United States superbly before the Supreme Court for the past three terms. I am grateful for his tireless service to his country and the Department of Justice, and I wish him well in his future endeavors,” Barr said, as USA Today reported.

“I believe we have furthered the principle of limited constitutional government,” Francisco said in his resignation letter, pointing to Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees and 200 federal judges confirmed thus far during the president’s first term.

Role in key LGBT cases

Francisco’s departure comes as several other key figures are also poised to step down. Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt will also leave the Justice Department on July 3, and Brian Benczkowski, the head of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, also announced plans to resign, according to the Washington Examiner. It is common for officials in such roles to depart in election years, USA Today reported.

Francisco advocated for the Trump administration in several cases that touched on LGBT issues, endeavoring to protect religious liberty and to clarify the scope of existing laws, USA Today reported.

He argued that businesses owners opposed to homosexuality on religious grounds should not be legally required to provide goods and services to gay weddings and similar events, that the military should be permitted to refuse transgender individuals among its ranks, and that federal employment discrimination law does not apply to the LGBT status of individual citizens.

With the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that LGBT status is indeed protected under federal employment discrimination laws, however, the high court may in the future be called upon to determine whether religious objectors will be exempted from the law as it applies to the LGBT community.

Francisco was notably the first Asian American to serve in the role, according to Reuters. He will likely be replaced, at least temporarily, by Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, according to USA Today.

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