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Friday, November 18, 2016

Justice Willet: A Confirmation Hearing Outline

Via Howard Bashman's How Appealing, I learned of this excellent profile of Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett by Eric Benson. Since Donald Trump included Justice Willett on his short list of potential Supreme Court nominees back in May, there has been a decent amount of coverage from the fairly generic to the critical to the sensational. Benson's article thoroughly covers the story of Justice Willett's life and career before the Texas Supreme Court, some of his notable moments on the Court, and his activities beyond the judiciary, including his speaking at Federalist Society events and living up to his title as the Tweeter Laureate of Texas.

From Benson's article:
Social media sleuths had combed through @JusticeWillett’s feed and found such Trump-mocking gems as “We’ll rebuild the Death Star. It’ll be amazing, believe me. And the rebels will pay for it. —Darth Trump.” Within the day, the websites of outlets from the Dallas Morning News to People exploded with variations of the headline “9 times Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett dissed Donald Trump.” While some political commentators thought Willett’s tweets would make his ultimate selection by the thin-skinned Trump unlikely, the president-elect might well favor a judge prone to the occasional insult. But the attention garnered by Willett’s Twitter jabs obscured a more relevant fact: While the justice portrays himself on social media as little more than a flag-waving, pun-inclined good old boy, he is also a heavyweight of constitutional jurisprudence, one of the leading lights of a polarizing legal movement that has upended the long-sacrosanct conservative doctrine of “judicial restraint,” the mantra of Scalia and Robert Bork.

In a series of high-profile opinions over the past half-decade, Willett has mapped out the contours of this position, championing what libertarian attorney Chip Mellor termed “judicial engagement,” a more aggressive approach to reviewing (and sometimes declaring unconstitutional) government regulations, particularly those that relate to economic and property rights.
I began following Justice Willett on Twitter a while ago, and it is a decision I do not regret. Justice Willett's tweets are often humorous and informative. While Justice Willett's tweets are almost all whimsical, he does not hide his enthusiasm for judicial restraint.

I urge readers to read Benson's full article on Justice Willett. As for the remainder of this the event that Justice Willett is indeed selected as a judicial nominee, whether for the Supreme Court or for another federal judgeship, senators will need to think up questions to ask at the confirmation hearing. Clever senators should approach the hearing as any good lawyer approaches questioning a witness at trial: they should ask questions knowing what the answer will be -- or what the answer ought to be.

With this in mind, here is a list of possible questions senators may ask, along with Justice Willett's paper Twitter trail that shows what his answers had better be:

As a Supreme Court Justice (or federal judge) would you be willing to expand the Supreme Court's previous decisions that expanded the definition of marriage?

As a Supreme Court Justice (or federal judge) will you legislate from the bench?

Do you anticipate that you would ever engage in any form of judicial activism should you be appointed to the Court?

How will you approach discussions with other justices (or judges) who do not agree with your views on a case?

(Here's a non-tongue-in-cheek question, just for fun): Does your inclusion of "#SCOTUS" in this tweet indicate that you would vote in favor of granting certiorari to this case or to a similar case?

What approach will you take toward oral argument?

What is that on your sleeve?

To the numerous United States Senators out there who I am sure read this blog on a daily basis: You're welcome.

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