You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

In national spotlight, Texas judge laments civic illiteracy


Highlights

Texas Supreme Court justice is on Donald Trump’s list of 21 potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Don Willett calls on schools to address civic illiteracy.

Saying we live in an era of “staggering civic illiteracy,” Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett told a conservative think tank Thursday that schools must provide a far richer education on the rights and duties of U.S. citizens.

Speeches by members of a relatively obscure court typically don’t get much media attention, but Willett’s profile has risen significantly since his name appeared on President-elect Donald Trump’s list of 21 potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump recently said he plans to make his pick “within about two weeks” of his Jan. 20 inauguration, and The New York Times has reported that the list has been cut to a half-dozen names for additional scrutiny.

Willett, a Republican on the Texas high court since 2005, said he has had no contact or conversations with Trump or his transition team. “I’m just trying to keep my head down” and focus on the job, he told the American-Statesman, adding that he feels blessed to be part of the nine-member Texas court.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

“Growing up a doublewide-trailer kid raised by a widowed waitress mom who never finished high school, I never imagined serving on any court, much less the U.S. Supreme Court,” Willett said.

In his lunchtime speech to the Texas Public Policy Foundation gathering in Austin, Willett didn’t discuss the U.S. Supreme Court, focusing instead on what he called an acute crisis of American ignorance in the workings of the Constitution and government.

Saying people who don’t understand government don’t participate in it, Willett cited an August survey showing that only 26 percent of adults could name the three branches of government, while 31 percent couldn’t name a single branch.

The U.S. system of government requires fierce champions, not feeble spectators, yet voter turnout in Texas is the worst in the nation, he said.

“When voters don’t actually vote, then politicians have every incentive to ignore them,” Willett said. “Our government is only going to be as great, as responsive as we demand it to be.”

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

Schools will have to do better, he said. “We have got to get back into the education game,” he said. “Civics is no less a core competency than other subject.”

Willett’s name appeared on the first list of prospective nominees that Trump released in May — a surprising turn, Willett said at the time, because the Trump campaign hadn’t contacted him beforehand.

Ten names were added in September, and Trump promised that his first nominee would come from the combined list that includes nine federal appellate judges and nine state Supreme Court judges.

The exposure dramatically raised the profile of Willett, who had been better known for his active and humorous Twitter feed. Newspaper features followed, and his Twitter followers jumped to 74,000. The Wall Street Journal recently featured “A Week in the Life of Justice Don Willett,” a first-person account from “the tweetingest judge in America.”

The last state Supreme Court justice appointed to the federal high court, however, was William Brennan Jr. in 1956 — 10 years before Willett was born.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Watch: Pigs escape a truck crash closing major highway near Dallas

Travelers using Interstate 45 southeast of Dallas encountered a massive closure of several highway lanes Thursday morning following a semi truck crash and vehicle fire. The truck was carrying large pigs, and live video from the scene shows several of the animals escaped the wreckage and wandered along the highway.   According to NBC DFW, the truck...
City of Austin in federal court Thursday over ‘sanctuary cities’ ban
City of Austin in federal court Thursday over ‘sanctuary cities’ ban

City of Austin attorneys will be back in a downtown federal court on Thursday for a hearing related to the lawsuits filed over the “sanctuary cities” ban set to be enacted under Senate Bill 4. Thursday’s hearing is related to a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Ken Paxton just hours after Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 4 into law. The...
Truck pulling wind mill fan blade stalls out in Williamson County
Truck pulling wind mill fan blade stalls out in Williamson County

A 18-wheeler carrying a massive wind mill fan blade stalled out on a Williamson County road overnight, complicating the morning commute — and providing quite the sight for morning commuters.  The truck — stuck in the right northbound lane of FM 1325, between County Road 172 and Shoreline Drive — was first reported stalled by...
HOT TOWN: Forecast says summer’s back in the city
HOT TOWN: Forecast says summer’s back in the city

Thursday forecast for Austin: It couldn’t last. After nearly a week of relatively cooler temperatures and storms, summer is roaring back into town today. Temperatures will push higher into the mid-90s, but the blanket of humid air over the city makes it feel more like the low 100s — with nary a rain chance in sight. Tomorrow is expected...
Parents, special needs children left floundering after Medicaid cuts
Parents, special needs children left floundering after Medicaid cuts

Stacey English has modest desires for her 7-year-old daughter Addison: Be able to eat without gagging and move both her arms. But since Addison’s occupational therapist went out of business this winter, the child with a rare genetic disorder has regressed in her fight to do even that much. “I don’t know where to go from here,&rdquo...
More Stories