Supreme Court

Texas Justice Don Willett Is One Step Closer to Being Confirmed to the Federal Bench

Senate Judiciary Committee votes 11-9 to advance Willett's nomination to the Senate floor.


Senate Judiciary Committee

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett is now one step closer to being confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Earlier today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9, along party lines, in favor of reporting Willett's nomination to the Senate floor. A final up-or-down vote by the full Senate on Willett's 5th Circuit nomination has not yet been scheduled.

Willett has served on the Texas Supreme Court since 2005 and has written a number of notable opinions dealing with highly contentious topics, such as the proper scope of state regulatory power and whether or not civil asset forfeiture is constitutional.

Yet during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Willett faced almost no substantive questioning about either his legal views or his judicial philosophy. Instead, as I reported at the time, the Senate Democrats "beclowned themselves, wasting valuable Q&A time on a series of weak and frankly embarrassing questions about some jokes that Willett told on Twitter."

Today's hearing was equally devoid of substantive criticism of the nominee. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) once again brought up Willett's tweets. (Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who had previously attacked Willett for the same tweets, failed to make an appearance today, though he did vote no by proxy.) And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) delivered a lengthy rant that lumped Willett together with his fellow 5th Circuit nominee James Ho, as well as 8th Circuit nominee Steven Grasz, all of whom Whitehouse denounced as "terrible judges" that were specifically picked to do the bidding of a "dark money" cabal. If Whitehouse had any particular evidence to support his conspiracy theory, he kept it to himself.

Given the surprisingly feeble criticism that Willett has faced so far from the Democratic side of the aisle, it seems safe to predict that he will be readily confirmed to the federal bench.

Related: From Bork to Willett: Is the Conservative Legal Movement Going Libertarian?

NEXT: Senator Al Franken Says He Will Resign In the Coming Weeks

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  1. The dude wants people to be allowed to marry bacon. Slippery slope indeed.

    1. Marrying bacon has working out okay so far for Kyra Sedgwick. Just sayin’.

      1. He has a juicy rasher if you know what I mean, so yeah, she is doing alright.

  2. all of whom Whitehouse denounced as “terrible judges” that were specifically picked to do the bidding of a “dark money” cabal.


    1. Blah. You made me read the article to figure out what you were talking about.

      1. Fact: true libertarians read all Reason articles.

        I am so much more libertarian than you.

        1. Fact: true libertarians can never find responses to their comments on Reason’s horrible commenting system.

          Since we are equal on this one, you are still so much more libertarian than me.

    2. If you could just see the web of red string covering the walls of Whitehouse’s office then you too would finally see the truth. WAKE UP SHEEPLE

  3. Willett laughs last.

  4. Look for online headlines “Unqualified appellate court nominee’s really awful terribly bad and embarrassing hearing.” Problem is that is the sort of place, along with The Daily Show, where lots of millennials think they get their “news” and information. And Vox will explain it for you…

    1. The Daily Show‘s tagline used to be the exceedingly honest “Where More People Get Their News Than Probably Should,” but they quietly dropped that a couple years into John Stewart’s run.

      1. I’ve had many friends explicitly say that it is much better source of news than any other.

        So, there you go.

        What can I say though? Reason is my primary news source these days. And they are also an opinion site.

        1. Well, as we all know, the most important news stories are the one that are best suited for a comedic treatment.

        2. Reason is my only domestic news source. If anything very important happens in America, it will make the papers in other countries anyway. Life is less stressful when I have no idea why all my neighbors are foaming at the mouth over the offense of the week. Reason will call out Republicans and Democrats who go against libertarian values. I don’t need to follow all the pearl clasping in the other papers.

          1. I hope you say follow, they’re not as newsy, but have more in-depth analysis a few times a week.

  5. “dark money” cabal


    Band name reference.

    Well, lunch break is over. Back to work.

  6. Matt Welch was right. Hillary was the less worse candidate.


  7. Trump was not supposed to win. We are no longer governed. We have tribal warfare. Thanks Obama.

  8. Today in Washington, your government wasted incredible amounts of time and money by holding sham hearings with the pretense of finding information that would help them make a decision regarding someone’s fitness to hold a government position. After using the platform as an opportunity to talk about whatever the hell they wanted and completely ignore any responses from the nominee, your government representatives then proceeded to check whether or not they were on the same team as the person who made the nomination and then vote accordingly.

    News at 11.

  9. When I see fellow comments beclowning themselves, I am now energized to say so.

    1. The ritual act of beclowning oneself requires diligent practice to fully accomplish. The Democrats referenced above, and indeed all politicians, oftentimes spend decades perfecting the act. Some believe that John Conyers, achieved an insurmountable beclowning milestone when he showed upon Capital Hill in his pajamas. Reason commenters, alas, are but pretenders.

      1. Except Hinn of course.

      2. The ritual act of beclowning oneself

        It does sound weirdly formal. I picture a clown king, arms outstretched in the royal clown bedchamber, being clothed in regal polka-dot attire by clown servants

        1. Not just servants. It is considered an honor among the clown nobility to be invited to attend the clown king at his levee. Clown dukes and clown earls vie for the opportunity to fill the clown king’s flower-button water reservoir, or to hand him his big red nose.

  10. The Democrats’ criticisms of him could have had a lot more substance. For example, why does he only care about the lives of people who eat at Hitler fil A?…..Etfs4PYnK/

  11. I like chicken. But then, I beclown myself.

    1. “I’m joeb. I’m disgusting”

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