U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) today released the following statements after President Trump announced his intention to nominate state Supreme Court Chief Justice Don Willett and former state Solicitor General Jim Ho to fill the vacancies in the state of Texas on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit:
“Jim Ho and Justice Willett are two exceptional legal minds who will faithfully interpret the law, not rewrite it, said Sen. Cornyn. “Mr. Ho skillfully defended the state before our nation’s highest court while Justice Willett has distinguished himself as a thoughtful jurist known for his legal writing. I was proud to join Senator Cruz in recommending both candidates and I look forward to building support among my colleagues for their nominations.”
“I am thrilled to support the nominations of Don Willett and Jim Ho to the Fifth Circuit. I have been close friends with them both for decades, and I know them personally to be brilliant lawyers and principled conservatives,” Sen. Cruz said. “For over a decade on the Texas Supreme Court, Don Willett has proven himself to be a jurist of the highest order. His service on the court was simply one more step in a career of public service, from the Texas Governor Office, to the White House, to the Department of Justice, to the Texas Attorney General’s office. Every step along the way, Justice Willett has stood out as man of intellect and principle, and I am excited to see what he will accomplish on the Fifth Circuit. Jim Ho has proven throughout his accomplished career that he is a passionate defender of the Constitution and the rule of law. Jim has served with distinction in all three branches of government, including as a law clerk to the great Justice Clarence Thomas on the United States Supreme Court, an official at the Department of Justice, and a chief counsel here in the United States Senate. Jim also succeeded me as Solicitor General of Texas, where he argued some of this country’s toughest cases before its highest courts. I am confident that he will be a stellar jurist and an intellectual force on the court.”
The Senators recommended both nominees to President Trump following an extensive review and interview process of the candidate pool by the bipartisan Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee (FJEC). Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Cruz established the FJEC, a bipartisan panel of leading attorneys in Texas, to help identify the most qualified candidates to fill judicial vacancies. The panel reviewed applications, interviewed candidates, and made recommendations to the Senators, who interviewed individuals before making their recommendations to the President.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice, Don Willett: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Justice Don Willett currently serves as a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court. He was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court by Governor Perry in 2005, and was then elected to that position by the people of Texas in 2006 and 2012. Before assuming judicial office, Justice Willett held several other positions of public service. From 2003 to 2005, he was a Deputy Attorney General and chief legal counsel to the Attorney General of Texas, and before that, was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice. Previously, Justice Willett served in the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Director of Law & Policy in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. From 1996 to 2000, Justice Willett was Director of Research & Special Projects for Governor Bush. Before entering public service, he practiced labor and employment law in the Austin office of Haynes and Boone, LLP. Justice Willett clerked for Judge Jerre S. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Justice Willett is a member of the American Law Institute and recently served as editor-in-chief of Judicature—The Scholarly Journal for Judges. He earned a B.B.A. 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.
Former state Solicitor General, Jim Ho: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Jim Ho is currently a partner in the Dallas office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, where he serves as co-chair of the firm’s appellate and constitutional law practice group. Before joining the firm, Mr. Ho served as Solicitor General of Texas in the Office of the Attorney General of Texas. Before relocating to Texas, Mr. Ho served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and as Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator John Cornyn on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Ho also served in the U.S. Department of Justice, first as a special assistant to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and then as an attorney-advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel. Upon graduation from law school, Mr. Ho served as a law clerk to Judge Jerry E. Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He earned a B.A. in Public Policy, with honors, from Stanford University and a J.D., with high honors, from the University of Chicago Law School.