Don Willett of Texas is a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Previously he served as a Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. He was initially appointed in 2005 by Governor Rick Perry and has been reelected by the voters twice. Prior to his judicial service, Judge Willett worked as a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, as an advisor in George W. Bush’s gubernatorial and presidential administrations, as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, and as a Deputy Attorney General under then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Judge Willett received his law degree and a master’s degree from Duke.
Concurring in judgment, Justice Willet offers his analysis of economic due process and the tension between state regulation and individual liberty. Any opinion that cites Frederick Douglass, Pope Francis, and Williamson v. Lee Optical is well worth a read.
David Crudup sued the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office for malicious prosecution, and subpoenaed the D.A.’s Office for its prosecution file and trial testimony. The D.A.’s Office released its prosecution file but asserted work-product privilege with regard to the testimony. The trial court ruled in favor of the D.A.; the Court of Appeals reversed. The D.A. petitioned the Texas Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus. Justice Willett’s majority opinion granted the prosecutors relief, holding that work-product privilege protected them from testifying. Justice Willett also wrote a separate concurring opinion arguing that prosecutors should not be made into taxpayer-funded witnesses in private civil disputes.
Justice Willett dissented in a libel case concerning the meaning of “electronic media” under Texas law. Justice Willett argued for clear rules for defining members of the media, especially with respect to Blogs, for the purposes of First Amendment protection.
Justice Willett penned a majority opinion holding that the lower courts impermissibly certified a workers’ compensation settlement that did not comport with the Labor Code. He reasoned that a court’s power under the Code to certify settlements “is tightly restricted to only those settlements that strictly comply with the meticulous” governing provisions of the Texas Labor Code.
Justice Willett’s dissent in a writ of mandamus proceeding argues for a complete rebuilding of Texas’ “Rube Goldberg-designed judicial ‘system.’”
The Texas Supreme Court found that the state Insurance Code prohibits race-based credit scoring to price insurance, but permits race-neutral practices that nonetheless have a disparate-impact. Justice Willett concurred in judgment, reasoning that the Insurance Code did not expressly prohibit disparate impact, unlike the Labor and Government Codes. He expressed concern at the rise of muddled “legisprudence” making the lower courts’ job more difficult.
Justice Willett’s majority opinion ruled that Williams’ statutory cause of action under Texas anti-discrimination law preempted her common law claim in a workplace sexual harassment suit. The common law claim carried a higher monetary damage award.