With political jockeying in full roar after Friday’s death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, attention turned to President Donald Trump’s “short list” of more than 40 potential nominees, including three from Texas.
The Texans, plus a fourth with Texas ties, all have solid conservative credentials:
Don Willett: Touting himself as the most conservative justice on the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, Willett was best known for an active and funny Twitter account — until his name landed on Trump’s first list of 11 potential high court picks in 2016.
Willett had no judicial experience when then-Gov. Rick Perry named him to fill a Texas Supreme Court vacancy in 2005, having served as an adviser to George W. Bush while he was Texas governor and president, and chief legal adviser to now-Gov. Greg Abbott when he was attorney general.
Willett’s name wasn’t called for Trump’s first two Supreme Court picks, but he was tapped in 2017 for a lifetime appointment to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he currently sits.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Democrats zeroed in on a memo Willett wrote to Gov. Bush expressing discomfort with a proposed proclamation for an organization that supported abortion rights, affirmative action and the Equal Rights Amendment, and Willett was confirmed by the Senate on a 50-47 party-line vote.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz: The Republican junior senator from Texas since 2013 is a former presidential candidate who hopes to seek the office again in the future.
His inclusion on Trump’s latest Supreme Court list, released Sept. 9, was seen as a reward for Cruz’s fierce defense of the president and a signal that his sharp criticism of Trump during the 2016 campaign was water under the bridge.
Cruz would later tell Fox News that he wasn’t interested in the Supreme Court job, saying he preferred to be part of the political fight over the court’s next vacancy.
When that vacancy unexpectedly occurred days later, Cruz told Fox News on Friday that Trump should name Ginsburg’s replacement next week.
“And I think it is critical that the Senate takes up and confirms that successor before Election Day,” he said.
In the Senate, Cruz has been a staunch opponent of abortion, same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act and a strong supporter of gun rights and religious expression.
He got his political start as solicitor general for Texas under then-attorney general Abbott and has argued nine cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
James Ho: Like Cruz, Ho served as Texas solicitor general, the state’s chief appellate lawyer. Like Willett, he currently serves on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Unlike those two Texans, however, Ho is little known outside of legal circles, though he is making a name with aggressive opinions on cases involving religious liberty, abortion and LGBTQ rights that have drawn praise from conservatives and rebukes from liberals.
A Taiwanese immigrant as a child, Ho is the first Asian-American to serve on the federal appeals court and was a clerk for two notable conservatives — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Jerry Smith on the 5th Circuit Court.
He was confirmed by the Senate on a 53-43 vote one day after Willett, with three Democrats crossing the aisle to vote in his favor.
In addition to Ho, Trump’s latest list included Stuart Kyle Duncan of Louisiana, who also serves on the 5th Circuit Court. Duncan’s Lone Star ties include assistant solicitor general for Texas and a lawyer in private practice in Austin in 2001-02.