Report: Don Willett

Willett bragged about being the most conservative justice on the Texas Supreme Court, mocked the LGBTQ community on twitter.


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From the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:


Don Willett, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court since 2005, has advanced a right-wing agenda throughout his career, both on and off the bench.  Justice Willett’s record of extreme legal views earned him a place on then-candidate Trump’s list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees assembled last year by the far-right Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation.  Justice Willett lacks the impartiality and temperament necessary to serve as a federal judge, a lifetime appointment.


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In a 2012 re-election campaign ad that Justice Willett approved and used, a narrator said: “Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett is widely hailed as our most conservative justice.  Conservative leaders even describe Don Willett as the judicial remedy to Obamacare, drafting the legal roadmap to reign in big government.  Don Willett helped defend the right of Texas to display the Ten Commandments and fought the liberals who tried to remove the words ‘Under God’ from our Pledge.”[3]


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Echoing the sentiment expressed in his Robinson concurrence, Justice Willett criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in remarks he made in January 2012, months before the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ACA.  According to a news account: “Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, speaking before [Texas Attorney General] Abbott, praised the attorney general for leading the fight against ‘Obamacare.’  Willett said a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the law would destroy the notion of limited federal powers.  ‘Government will have carte blanche to control every sphere of your everyday life,’ Willett said.”[8]  Justice Willett’s hyperbolic analysis and slippery slope argument were echoed for years by those on the conservative fringe who sought to deny the authority of Congress to pass comprehensive health care reform.


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When he worked in the Texas Attorney General’s office from 2003-2005, Mr. Willett participated in two voting rights cases in which he defended Texas from claims of Voting Rights Act violations.  In Barrientos v. Texas,[24] he drafted a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a lower court decision that dismissed a complaint filed by 11 state senators who alleged that the Voting Rights Act had been violated when the Texas legislature passed a second congressional redistricting plan after the 2000 Census.  The Supreme Court did affirm the lower court.  In Session v. Perry,[25] Mr. Willett assisted with trial preparation in another challenge to the Texas congressional redistricting plan.  In this case, the Supreme Court struck down one of the congressional districts because it diluted Latino voting power and violated the Voting Rights Act,[26] but Mr. Willett had left the office by then and did not work on the Supreme Court briefing.I could support recognizing a constitutional right to marry bacon.


From the Alliance for Justice:


In this context, Willett’s concurrence in Patel v. Texas Dep’t of Licensing & Regulation, 469 S.W.3d 69 (Tex. 2015) is notable. In Patel, Willett advocated reviving Lochner era jurisprudence, a long-discarded doctrine that was used to strike down minimum wage laws and erode workers’ rights in the name of economic liberty. Willett’s view is far outside the mainstream, repudiated by several prominent conservative jurists, including Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Judge Robert Bork.


Willett’s record on the Texas Supreme Court is one that repeatedly sides against workers and consumers, particularly in cases implicating significant civil rights, and has failed to give proper effect to important constitutional rights regarding marriage equality and quality education under Texas law.



The detailed background report on Don Willett from the Alliance for Justice is here.


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