President Donald Trump has nominated Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett to the Fifth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Willett is known as a champion of restraining bureaucracy and interpreting regulations in a limited way. In 2015, he was described by Reason‘s Damon Root as producing “the most libertarian legal opinion ever written” during a case regarding whether eyebrow threaders ought to be required to hold licenses in order to remove eyebrow hairs with cotton threads.
“This case concerns the timeless struggle between personal freedom and government power. Do Texans live under a presumption of liberty or a presumption of restraint? The Texas Constitution confers power—but even more critically, it constrains power,” Willett wrote in his concurring opinion. “What are the outer-boundary limits on government actions that trample Texans’ constitutional right to earn an honest living for themselves and their families?”
“This case is fundamentally about the American Dream and the unalienable human right to pursue happiness without curtsying to government on bended knee,” Willett continued. “It is about whether government can connive with rent-seeking factions to ration liberty unrestrained, and whether judges must submissively uphold even the most risible encroachments.”
In addition, Willett boasts a large Twitter following among libertarians and conservatives, where he has been outspoken about his vision for constitutionally limited government.
Willett was recommended to the President by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). The two men had become acquainted while serving concurrently under then-Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott. Cruz was serving as Solicitor General at the time, while Willett was the Deputy Texas Attorney General for Legal Counsel. In 2005, Willett was nominated for the Supreme Court of Texas by then-Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), and has served on that court ever since.
During Trump’s presidential campaign, Willett was on the list of judges under consideration to replace the deceased Antonin Scalia. Ultimately, however, Trump chose Neil Gorsuch, another judge popular with libertarians and constitutionalists.