In announcing his first nomination to the Texas Supreme Court, Gov. Greg Abbott has chosen to place his own general counsel, Jimmy Blacklock, to a seat currently held by Justice Don Willett. Blacklock has been the governor’s right-hand man for a decade. He served as an assistant solicitor general and deputy general for legal counsel during Abbott’s term as Texas’ attorney general, during which he mounted challenges to Affordable Care Act and wrote briefs opposing abortion and same-sex divorces before marriage equality became the law of the land.
Blacklock will be seated on the high court upon Willett’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Willett, who’s known as the “Tweeter Laureate of Texas” for his active social media presence, faced tough questions during a U.S. Senate Judiciary hearing earlier this month but is expected to easily win full Senate approval.
“While I cannot guarantee that Jimmy Blacklock will live up to the Twitter skills of Justice Willett, I believe that he will match or excel the legal abilities that Justice Willett has demonstrated,” Abbott said. “I have the ability to say that having both Justice Willett and Jimmy Blacklock work for me. I wanted to make sure that when I appoint someone to the Texas Supreme Court, I will not be taking a risk hoping this person will turn out the right way.”
Willett also served as an assistant attorney general to Abbott before he was appointed to the Supreme Court by then-Gov. Rick Perry in 2005.
Blacklock is a 2005 graduate of Yale Law School, where he was a member of the Federalist Society and served as president of the Yale Law Republican. He later clerked for Judge Jerry Smith on the Fifth Circuit and served as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice. “Accomplishments like these aren’t just handed out. They are a testament to Jimmy’s legal ability and to his tireless work ethic,” Abbott said. “Jimmy will bring his honed legal skills to the Texas Supreme Court. Just as important Jimmy will bring a constitutional voice to the bench. We need justices with a conservative judicial philosophy who will apply the constitution as it was intended.”
There is a long tradition of Texas governors appointing their staff lawyers to the state’s highest court. In 1999, then-Gov. George W. Bush appointed his general counsel, Alberto Gonzales, to the Texas Supreme Court, later making him White House Counsel and U.S. attorney general after Bush was elected as president in 2000. And in 2004, Perry also appointed his general counsel, David Medina, to the high court.