Noel Francisco, top Trump administration lawyer, departing

Noel Francisco

FILE – In this May 21, 2019, file photo, Solicitor General Noel Francisco poses for a photograph at the Department of Justice in Washington. Francisco, who as the Trump administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer defended controversial policies including the president’s travel ban, push to add a citizenship question to the census and decision to restrict service in the military by transgender people, is leaving the job. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer announced Wednesday he is leaving the job after three years in which he represented the government in a series of high-profile cases.

Noel Francisco argued 17 cases before the Supreme Court as solicitor general. He defended President Donald Trump’s travel ban and the push to add a citizenship question to the census as well as the decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects some 660,000 people from deportation.

Just Monday the high court ruledin a case about LGBT rights that Francisco had argued. The justices ruled against the administration’s position 6-3, finding that a landmark civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment.

Francisco won the travel ban case, but the high court’s decision in the census case kept the administration from adding the citizenship question to the census. A case about the administration’s decision to wind down the DACA program is pending. So are two cases Francisco argued just last month in a group of arguments the Supreme Court held by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those involve subpoenas for Trump’s financial records and an administration change to health care coverage requirements.

Francisco’s resignation is effective July 3. He said in a letter announcing his departure that it is time for him to “return to the private sector and spend more time with my family.” It is common for people in the job to leave in the summer, when the Supreme Court takes a break, before a presidential election.

In his letter, Francisco praised Trump as well as Attorney General William Barr. “Although I will no longer be representing the Administration in court, I will be pulling for you from the sidelines,” Francisco wrote.

Francisco joined the office in 2017, at the beginning of the Trump administration, when Trump had not yet named a solicitor general. He eventually became Trump’s choice for the post.

“When the dust settled, the obvious, the easy choice for the president, was the guy that was already there,” Francisco said in 2018 during a speech at Catholic University in Washington.

Francisco had previously served in President George W. Bush’s administration in the White House Office of Counsel and the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Francisco was raised in Oswego, New York, and received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Chicago. He was a clerk to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

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