Don Willett was appointed to the Supreme Court of Texas in August 2005 and elected to a full term in November 2006.
Before assuming the bench, Justice Willett was a Deputy Texas Attorney General, serving as chief legal adviser to Attorney General Greg Abbott on the complete array of major legal issues confronting Texas.
Before that, Justice Willett was Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he played a key role in the President's judicial selection and nominations process. He also supervised numerous cutting-edge civil and criminal justice initiatives, such as expediting U.S. citizenship for active-duty immigrant service members and crafting the landmark PROTECT Act of 2003 to protect children from abduction and exploitation. Before joining the Justice Department, Willett served as Special Assistant to the President in the White House, providing legal counsel on religious liberty and other issues.
From 1996 to 2000, Justice Willett was Director of Research & Special Projects for then-Governor Bush, and later was Domestic Policy & Special Projects Adviser to the Bush-Cheney 2000 Presidential Campaign and Transition Team.
A native Texan, Justice Willett earned a triple-major BBA from Baylor University and his J.D. with honors along with an A.M. in political science from Duke University, where he was Senior Editor of LAW & CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS and Editor of the DUKE INTERNATIONAL & COMPARATIVE LAW ANNUAL. Following law and graduate school, he was a law clerk to Judge Jerre S. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. From 1993 to 1996, he practiced employment/labor law in the Austin office of Haynes and Boone, L.L.P. and also handled significant pro bono matters for various nonprofit legal foundations.
Justice Willett was named Outstanding Young Alumnus of Baylor University in 2005 and inducted into the Forney Hall of Honor in 2007. He has been named recipient of the 2012 Price Daniel Distinguished Public Service Award. Justice Willett has also received the Faith and Integrity in Legal Services Award and the Austin Under 40 Award for Government and Public Affairs. Justice Willett is a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, the Austin Bar Foundation, and is a member of the American Law Institute.
Justice Willett serves as Supreme Court Liaison to the Texas Center for Legal Ethics, the Task Force to Ensure Judicial Readiness in Times of Emergency, the Grievance Oversight Committee, and the Texas Center for the Judiciary.
Justice Willett has a long history of community involvement, including appointments to the Texas Commission on Volunteerism & Community Service, the Texas Commission on Judicial Efficiency (judicial selection reform task force), and the 1997–98 Class of Leadership Austin. His board and nonprofit service includes the National Fatherhood Initiative, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, SafePlace, the Texas Lyceum Association, the national advisory board of ConSource (The Constitutional Sources Project), the advisory board of the TEXAS REVIEW OF LAW & POLITICS, the advisory board of the Federalist Society (Austin chapter), the advisory board of the Harlan Institute, and the Baylor University Council for Institutional Development. In addition, Justice Willett was a Class XXII member of the Governor's Executive Development Program, and in the mid-1990s was a Senior Fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He has also served as a non-resident fellow with the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society (PRRUCS) at the University of Pennsylvania.
Justice Willett's wife, Tiffany, has served in the Texas Senate and also in the White House, where she was Education Director for the President's Commission on White House Fellowships. She most recently worked for Texas CASA, which advocates for abused and neglected children in the court system. They have three young children: Jacob, Shane-David, and Genevieve.
Justice Willett's term ends December 31, 2018.
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