Don Willett has served on the Supreme Court of Texas since 2005.
A native Texan (and former rodeo bull rider), Justice Willett earned a triple-major BBA from Baylor University, and then three degrees from Duke University: J.D. with honors, M.A. in political science, and LL.M. in Judicial Studies.
Justice Willett has devoted his professional life to public service, providing legal counsel to a Texas Attorney General, a Texas Governor, a U.S. Attorney General, and the President of the United States.
Before assuming the bench, Justice Willett was a Deputy Texas Attorney General, serving as chief legal adviser to then-Attorney General Greg Abbott on the complete array of major legal issues confronting Texas. Before that, he was Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice. At the Justice Department, he advised the President on judicial selection/nominations and supervised various civil and criminal justice initiatives, such as expediting citizenship for immigrants serving in the U.S. military, and the landmark PROTECT Act of 2003 to combat violent crimes against children. Previously, he was Special Assistant to the President in the White House, advising on religious liberty and other domestic policy issues. From 1996-2000, he was Director of Research & Special Projects for then-Governor Bush, and then advised the 2000 Bush-Cheney Presidential Campaign & Transition Team. After law school, he clerked for Judge Jerre S. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and then practiced labor and employment law at Haynes and Boone, LLP.
Justice Willett has served as editor in chief of Judicature and has written for The Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, the Stanford Law & Policy Review, and the Texas Review of Law and Politics. He has been Senior Fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and non-resident fellow with the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania.
Justice Willett’s professional honors include Jurist of the Year (Texas Review of Law and Politics), Outstanding Young Alumnus of Baylor University, the Price Daniel Distinguished Public Service Award, the Faith and Integrity in Legal Services Award, the Pro Texana Medal of Service, the Austin Under 40 Award, and the FastCase 50 Award for legal trailblazers. An elected member of the American Law Institute, Justice Willett is a member of the Forney Hall of Honor, a Life Fellow of the American, Texas, and Austin bar foundations, and has been twice honored for “exemplary legal writing” by The Green Bag.
Justice Willett’s long history of nonprofit board service includes the Texas Commission on Volunteerism & Community Service, Big Brothers Big Sisters, SafePlace, the Honors College at Baylor University, Austin Community Nursery Schools, the Texas Lyceum, the National Fatherhood Initiative, ConSource, the Harlan Institute, and others.
His wife, Tiffany, worked in the Texas Senate and later in the White House, where she was Education Director for the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. She most recently worked at Texas CASA, which advocates for abused and neglected children in the court system. They are the exhausted co-founders of three wee Willetts: Jacob, Shane-David, and Genevieve.
Justice Willett’s current term ends December 31, 2018.