- Ken Herman American-Statesman Staff
The commander-in-tweet has shut down and shut up the official Tweeter Laureate of Texas.
Sad. Thanks for nothing, Trump, you grump.
After eight years and just under 26,000 of the more entertaining tweets on the planet, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett’s Twitter feed ceased and desisted a couple of weeks ago.
Specifically, the de facto restraining order was issued Sept. 28 in a White House news release headlined, “President Donald J. Trump Announces Eighth Wave of Judicial Candidates.” Caught up in that wave was Willett, now awaiting Senate action on his nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Presidential nominees awaiting Senate confirmation are whisked away to an undisclosed location. That’s not true, but they do tend to assume a very low profile as appointed Sherpas slalom them through the confirmation process. Nominees speak to as few people as possible. They’re allowed to talk to their dogs, but only if the dog signs a nondisclosure agreement.
The silence is sad in Willett’s case because what’s elevated him above almost every other robe-wearing jurist in America is his entertaining tweetery. The Washington Post, in recognizing his talent, said Willett tweets about “his young children and family, daily history lessons, law nerd jokes and praise for the U.S. Constitution.”
During the presidential campaign, way back when lots of us thought the Trump candidacy was a joke, Willett lobbed a Twitter jab or two at the then-candidate who’s now enjoying a daily string of last laughs.
“Can’t wait till Trump rips off his face Mission Impossible-style & reveals a laughing Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Willett tweeted in August 2015 about a man who also has made himself a Twitter legend.
Earlier that year, the Texas House officially designated Willett as the “Tweeter Laureate of #Texas.”
His Twitter profile says “Supreme Court Justice & Tweeter Laureate of Texas. Former rodeo bull rider. Fluent in legalese. Extravagantly blessed husband & cofounder of 3 wee Willetts.”
His most recent (please don’t let it be final) tweet came on the day Trump announced the nomination.
“No words,” Willett tweeted. “I am humbled & honored by @POTUS’s nomination to the 5th circuit. Thank you, Mr. President – also Senators @JohnCornyn & @tedcruz.”
It didn’t say “over and out,” but since then, silence.
His penultimate tweet, posted earlier that day, was a history lesson: “OTD 1787 — Congress agreed to send the new Constitution to the states for their approval.”
Just prior to that, with a screen shot of survey results showing “Young respondents favor the Oxford comma,” Willett signaled his grammatical leanings with a tweet featuring musical notes and the message “I believe the children are our future,” first sung by noted grammarian Whitney Houston.
Also on his last day of tweetage, Willett sent out a photo of three volumes of “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.”
“My law library is complete,” he tweeted.
On the day before he went Twitter silent, Willett shared a photo with his mom, Doris. It’s clear he knew the big announcement was a day away:
“I held my (Supreme Court) swearing-in on 11.21.05. My mom’s 75th b’day! To honor her and the obstacles she’d overcome. STRONG WOMEN FOR THE WIN!”
More from that day’s tweet series:
“For my mom — widowed at 41 — finding quality child care for her kids was indispensable. Hats off to heroic moms like mine & those who help them.”
“The night before I joined #SCOTX, I estimated that my mom had walked a QUARTER-MILLION miles in her half century plus of waiting tables!”
There also was this on the day he very well might have told his mom about his nomination to the federal appeals court: “Visited my 86YO mom today at her memory-care facility. 100% hero. Worked her heart out so support her family. Conquered every workplace barrier.”
The tweet prior to the ones about his mom was classic Willett: “I don’t always fake-carpool in the HOV lane. But when I do. The Most Interesting Man in the World rides shotgun.” Attached was a screen grab from a news story about a motorist who was ticketed for putting a life-sized cutout of the Dos Equis guy in the passenger seat to get into HOV lanes.
I called the Texas Supreme Court to seek a comment from Willett about his Twitter silence.
“I’ve posed the question to him,” court spokesman Osler McCarthy replied. “Don’t hold your tweets for an answer. All matters about him and his nomination are in the hands of the Justice Department.”
So the only question is whether Willett will return to Twitter when and if the Senate confirms his nomination. I fear not. Probably not appropriate for a federal appeals judge. On the other hand, there was a time when I would have said it wouldn’t be appropriate for a Texas Supreme Court justice.
The loss of Willett on Twitter might not seem like a big deal, but it’s a whale of a loss for his 103,000 followers.