Fil-Am tapped for US solicitor general; ethnic pride, sarcasm ensue
NEW YORK—The search for a U.S. solicitor general is over. President Donald Trump found his 10th justice and it’s not Filipino American George Conway III, husband of his infamous political counselor Kellyanne Conway, but a Fil-Am nonetheless.
The White House issued a press release March 7 announcing Trump’s intent to nominate more key administration posts. This included Noel J. Francisco, who has been working as acting solicitor general at the Department of Justice (DOJ) since January this year.
“These dedicated men and women will help me and the rest of the Administration as we continue our work to make America great again. I am grateful for their willingness to serve and honored that they will be joining my team,” Trump said in the statement announcing the nominations.
Serving as deputy
Francisco has been serving as principal deputy solicitor general since January 23. Prior to joining the justice department, he was a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of law firm Jones Day, where he led the firm’s government regulation practice.
“While at Jones Day, he appeared several times before the Supreme Court, including in McDonnell v. United States, which involved the meaning of ‘official act’ under federal bribery statutes; Zubik v. Burwell, which involved the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to regulations addressing insurance coverage for contraception; and NLRB v. Noel Canning, which involved the Constitution’s recess appointment power. He has also argued numerous cases in lower federal and state courts on a wide range of constitutional, civil, and criminal matters,” the White House reported in its statement.
“From 2001 to 2003, Mr. Francisco served as associate counsel to the President, and from 2003 to 2005 he served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel,” it added.
Native New Yorker
Raised in Oswego, New York, Francisco graduated with honors from the University of Chicago in 1991 and completed law studies at the university’s law school in 1996, also with high honors, according to the statement.
“After law school, Mr. Francisco served as a law clerk for Judge J. Michael Luttig of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and then for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Mr. Francisco lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Cynthia, and their two daughters, Caroline and Maggie,” it concluded.
Though the official DOJ bio does not mention his Filipino lineage, David Lat, lawyer turned writer and founder of Above The Law, a news website about the legal profession, revealed that Mr. Francisco is in fact a Fil-Am.
“If confirmed, Noel Francisco would be the first Asian American to serve as solicitor general. As I’ve mentioned previously, Francisco’s father is of Filipino ancestry. Congrats again to my fellow Filipino American,” Lat wrote on the website.
He later clarified that Francisco would be the first, if confirmed by the Senate. “To be clear, Francisco would be the first Asian American to serve as a Senate-confirmed solicitor general. As one reader recently reminded me, Neal Katyal served as acting solicitor general for more than a year, from May 2010 to June 2011,” according to Lat’s update. Katyal is Indian American.
INQUIRER has also tried to reach Francisco through the DOJ for comments on the nomination, but its Office of Public Affairs (OPA) declined.
“Thank you for reaching out to us. Given that this nomination is currently pending before the Senate, we will decline to comment. Mr. Francisco is 47 and was born in Syracuse, New York,” Peter Carr from the OPA replied to our request.
Meanwhile, Fil-Am leaders gave mixed reactions to Francisco’s nomination.
Bay Area-based Rudy Asercion, Region 8 chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), expressed cultural pride.
“Nominating a Fil-Am as SG reflects positively on our community and all of us should be very proud of his accomplishment. To have a Filipino defend the U.S. in court is a testament to our success in empowerment through performance of civic duty,” he told INQUIRER.net.
Consuelo Almonte, president of the Philippine Community Center Services for Aging in New York, shared the same sentiment.
“With the appointment of Noel Francisco as solicitor general as well as the other two Fil-Ams holding different capacities at the White House only proves that Filipino immigrants are assets to this country. They are active participants in the community, hardworking, educated and are least dependent on social subsidies. President Trump should be given credit for his appointments, which cross party lines to sincerely help in his efforts for change from the mess left to him by previous administrations. He was elected on his promise of change and he is complying with that promise,” she told INQUIRER.net
But others in the community expressed sarcasm at the nomination.
“I congratulate Noel Francisco on his nomination as solicitor general. This is great for Trump because no one is better at defending his policies than many Fil-Ams that are on social media who have been sold a fantasy by a con man who has been sued for fraud,” Aries de la Cruz, founding president of the Filipino American Democratic Club in New York, told INQUIRER.net.
Steven Raga, committeeman for the Queens County Democratic Committee, was not as blunt but expressed the same disappointment. “Taking pride in Francisco’s SG nomination because of his Filipino heritage is like cheering for your teammate after he dunked on the wrong basket,” he told INQUIRER.net.
“African Americans are not proud that Justice Clarence Thomas is in the U.S. Supreme Court when he consistently rules against the interests of African Americans on virtually every issue. I don’t believe that we should be proud of Trump’s appointment of Noel Francisco when his job will be to defend Trump’s racist, misogynist, xenophobic policies before the U.S. Supreme Court. He has never taken a position in support of civil rights for minorities. The fact that he has Filipino ancestry is just an accident of birth, nothing for Filipinos to be proud of. He may have the blood but that’s all he has,” Atty. Rodel Rodis, U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance president and NaFFAA legal counsel, told INQUIRER.net.