Updated at 12:56 p.m.: Changing his title from justice to judge, Don Willett took the oath of office Tuesday, leaving the Texas Supreme Court for a lifetime appointment to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
His vacancy lasted only minutes, ending when Gov. Greg Abbott swore in his replacement, Jimmy Blacklock, Abbott’s general counsel.
“Today is simply a day to say thank you,” Willett told an invitation-only crowd in the Texas Supreme Court’s courtroom after he was sworn in on the Sam Houston Bible, said to have been owned by the former Republic of Texas president, which was held by his wife, Tiffany, as their three children stood nearby.
“It has been the richest honor of my professional life to serve on the Supreme Court of Texas,” Willett said. “This is a magnificent institution.”
Earlier: Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett will join a federal appeals court Tuesday morning, but his vacancy will be brief.
In consecutive ceremonies in downtown Austin Willett will take the oath of office to begin his lifetime appointment to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in New Orleans and hears cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Then his replacement on the Texas court, Jimmy Blacklock, will be sworn in by Gov. Greg Abbott to fill Willett’s vacancy. Abbott announced in late November that he would appoint Blacklock, his general counsel, to the state’s highest civil court.
The ceremonies begin at 11 a.m. in the Texas Supreme Court’s courtroom near the Capitol.
President Donald Trump nominated Willett last year, and the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment in December, after which Willett, an active presence on Twitter who was named the “Tweeter Laureate of Texas” by the state House, resumed tweeting.
Blacklock will fill the remainder of Willett’s six-year term, which will expire at the end of 2018. His appointment did not need approval from the Texas Senate because the Legislature is not in session.