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Justice profile: Willett advised Bush in Austin, D.C.

From Staff Reports
Feb. 15, 2017 at 4 a.m.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett

Before his appointment to the Texas Supreme Court in 2005, Justice Don R. Willett served George W. Bush as a legal adviser in Texas and Washington.

Willett was director of research and special projects for then-Gov. Bush, from 1996 to 2000, and was a domestic policy and special projects adviser to the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential transition team.

The native Texan was deputy assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice during much of Bush's time in the White House. In that capacity, he supervised initiatives including expedition of U.S. citizenship for active-duty immigrants serving in the military.

He also served a stint as special assistant to the president, often providing legal counsel on religious liberty and other issues.

Willett earned a triple major in business administration from Baylor University before enrolling in Duke University where he graduated, with his jurisprudence degree and was senior editor of Law & Contemporary Problems and editor of Duke International & Comparative Law Annual.

After clerking for Judge Jerre S. Williams at the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Willett in 1993 joined the Austin firm of Haynes and Boone, where he practiced employment/labor law and handled pro bono work for nonprofit legal foundations.

Willett is an Outstanding Young Alumnus of Baylor University and was inducted into the Forney Hall of Honor there in 2007. He is a 2012 recipient of the Price Daniel Distinguished Public Service Award and also earned the Faith and Integrity in Legal Services and Austin Under 40 award.

On the Texas Supreme Court, Willett is 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.

Willett's community involvement is extensive and includes the National Fatherhood Initiative, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas and the Austin chapter of the Federalist Society.

Willett and his wife, Tiffany, a former Texas senator, are parents of three children.

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