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On Judicial Nominees, Trump Just Keeps on #Winning

Ilya Shapiro

President Trump hit another judicial home run with his 5th
Circuit nominees today. Don Willett and Jim Ho are tremendously
experienced and qualified lawyers and public servants whose
intellect and legal skills are matched only by their integrity and
commitment to the rule of law. I have known them both for a long
time and can attest that they will be tremendous assets to the
federal judiciary.

Justice Willett’s nomination in particular will make national
headlines because of his presence of social media. A decade from
now it probably (hopefully!) won’t be unusual to find federal
judges tweeting about life, the universe, and everything —
but in 2017, Willett is a trailblazer.

Whatever else is going on
in the world, this administration’s judicial appointments are on
the right track.

Not that he’s snarky or glib or anything that Twitter is known
for. Instead, he’s become the judicial Twitter laureate because of
the education he gives his fellow citizens on the Constitution and
the proper role of a judge (and bacon) all in his own inimitable
“judge next door” style. It’s to the enduring credit of the White
House counsel’s office and Justice Department that someone who’s
not plain-vanilla made it through the vetting process.

Not that Willett is all hat, no cattle. His work on the Texas
Supreme Court has become known for his clear writing style and
unwillingness to let the government, especially the Texas
government, slide if it’s exceeding its powers or intruding on
constitutional rights. It’s no wonder that he made the Supreme
Court shortlist for the seat that Justice Neil Gorsuch now
occupies, nor that he’s become a favorite of conservative (and
libertarian) elites and Texas lawyers alike.

Jim Ho has also made a reputation as someone committed to
originalism and textualism, having graduated with honors from the
University of Chicago Law School (my alma mater), clerked for
Justice Clarence Thomas, built on Ted Cruz’s success as Texas
solicitor general, and established his own nationally renowned
appellate practice at Gibson Dunn in Dallas. He’s truly a rising

An additional winner from this announcement is Cruz himself.
Both Willett and Ho are longtime friends of his and the fact that
the junior senator from the Lone Star state was able to prevail in
the Texas battle royale that delayed the filling of these two seats
speaks volumes about the continued influence he has regarding
constitutional issues and the future of the conservative legal

In short, I offer a double-barrel salute to President Trump and
his legal advisers on this one. Whatever else is going on in the
world, this administration’s judicial appointments are on the right

Ilya Shapiro
is a senior fellow in constitutional studies and editor-in-chief of
the Cato Supreme Court Review.