As Solicitor General of the United States, Noel Francisco is responsible for upholding the government’s positions before the U.S. Supreme Court. He does so ably, in my opinion. It’s not Francisco’s fault that Chief Justice Roberts decided to become the new Justice Kennedy or that Justice Gorsuch botched textualism.

Francisco has announced that he will step down as SG when the Supreme Court’s term ends this month. To my knowledge, there’s nothing to read into his decision.

It’s not unusual for the SG to step down after the end of the Court’s term in the final year of an administration. Doing so enables the SG’s principal deputy to assume the role. Ted Olson did it for Paul Clement in the last year of the first Bush 43 administration and Clement did it in the last year of the second. Don Verilli also stepped down in June of Obama’s second term.

Jeff Wall is Francisco’s principal deputy. As Scott observed, Wall did an outstanding job arguing before a skeptical panel of the D.C. Circuit on Michael Flynn’s mandamus petition. He was similarly stellar in an argument before the Fourth Circuit two years ago (I think) in a case involving one of President Trump’s exclusionary immigration orders involving entry to the U.S. by residents of certain countries.

Wall will become the acting SG.

If Trump nominates a successor to Francisco, it’s likely to be either Wall or Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel. Philbin received high marks for his defense of President Trump during the impeachment trial. (I was out of the country on vacation, and heard very little of these proceedings.)

So the president has two excellent candidates. It’s a good thing too, given the challenges of successfully arguing conservative positions to this very disappointing Supreme Court.

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