During the Republican presidential debates on Wednesday evening, Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted that he would recommend to the winning candidate that they appoint Texas Supreme Court Justice Don R. Willett to the U.S. Supreme Court. The topic of what kind of judges the candidates would appoint to serve on the nation’s highest court was a question posed to the candidates during the debates.
The Texas Governor called the Texas Supreme Court Justice, “A proven conservative who won’t rewrite law.”
Justice Willett served as chief legal advisor to Abbott when the Governor served as the state’s Attorney General.
The Texas Governor is not the first to bestow such high honors upon the Texas Supreme Court justice.
In July of 2015, Pulitzer Prize winning conservative newspaper political columnist George Will contrasted an opinion by Texas Supreme Court Justice Willett, with that of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. The legal question posed by Will involved America’s natural rights tradition and the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments’ affirmation of unenumerated rights.
After evaluating Willett’s legal analysis, and comparing it to the conclusion reached by Justice Roberts, George Will concluded in his column that “[t]he next Republican president” should simply say to his first U.S. Supreme Court nominee, “Welcome to Washington, Justice Willett.”
Prior to serving as legal counsel to then-Attorney General Abbott, Willett served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as a Special Assistant to the President at the White House, and was a lawyer in the Office of Governor George W. Bush.
Willett began his legal career as a law clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and then as an associate with the respected law firm of Haynes and Boone. He graduated from Duke University School of Law with honors.
Abbott’s tweet, and the esteem that he apparently holds for the Texas Supreme Court justice, signals that it may be more than just a short-lived passing acknowledgement of Willett’s legal ability and his conservative nature. The Texas Attorney General is facing a criminal trial and the resolution of those criminal proceedings has yet to occur. The Governor’s high esteem of the sitting justice may indicate what he would do if it became necessary to appoint a new Texas attorney general.
Justice Willett is respected and well-liked by Republican grassroots as well as the Republican establishment. The conservative justice stays connected to voters and one of the ways he does so is through his tweets on Twitter.
The New York Times wrote an article about Willett and his almost prolific online presence in September of 2014 saying:
To judge by his Twitter feed, Don Willett seems like an all-around solid guy: native Texan, proud conservative, three charming kids, loves Blue Bell ice cream and Baylor football, skilled at selfies, and not above the occasional lowbrow joke.
The Weekly Standard, a conservative opinion magazine, tweeted their article on Thursday about Willett entitled, “Online and on the Bench, the ‘Tweeter Laureate of Texas’ Is All About Judicial Engagement.”
The article in The Weekly Standard concluded that Willett has “A Constitution-first approach” and he “believes that judicial duty means taking the Constitution, its liberties, and its limits seriously.” It also recounted that Willett said, “Our Constitution exists to secure individual freedom, the essential condition of human flourishing.”
The Governor’s tweet during the debates is in harmony with the praises bestowed by others whose opinions are well-respected, or are worthy of reflection.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and an associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2