Few issues are more important in American politics than the selection of our judges. We live in a time in which judges assert far-reaching powers to thwart legislation enacted by our elected officials—and they often do so without any textual warrant in the Constitution. We also live in an age in which politicians, journalists, and law professors will applaud rather than condemn judicial rulings that depart from the language of enacted legal texts. In this environment, it is not enough simply to have judges who interpret the laws faithfully and as written. We also need judges who have the legal brilliance and the writing and rhetorical skills necessary to win others to their way of thinking—and to expose the sophistry of judges who abuse their powers.
Gov. Greg Abbott understands all of this. I know it because I had the privilege of working for him when he served as Attorney General of our state. No issue is more important to Governor Abbott than the selection of judges who will follow and apply the laws as they are written—and who have the academic and intellectual heft to write powerful and pathbreaking opinions that will influence the judiciary for the better. And no issue is more important to me as a citizen and as a member of the legal profession.
Which brings us to Justice Jimmy Blacklock—Governor Abbott’s first appointee to the Supreme Court of Texas, and my close friend and former colleague. Jimmy and I worked together in the Texas Attorney General’s office for four years, and I saw him work alongside then-Attorney General Abbott in defending our state’s abortion laws, marriage laws, voter-identification laws, and redistricting plans. Jimmy also went to battle against the federal government’s regulatory overreach in the areas of healthcare and environmental law. Our office won some of these battles and lost others. But in working together, I came to know and respect Jimmy as a lawyer who holds a visceral dedication to the Constitution as it was written by the Framers—and an equally visceral aversion to the living-constitution mindset that characterizes so much of present-day judging. Jimmy is a textualist to the core; his judicial philosophy is fully formed and he will never drift or evolve on the bench.
But Jimmy is more than just a committed textualist; he is also brilliant and learned in the law, which is an equally necessary condition for judicial service. As a graduate of Yale Law School and former law clerk to Judge Jerry E. Smith, Jimmy has stellar academic credentials, and (more importantly) he has the legal skills that one would expect from a lawyer with his résumé. Jimmy’s knowledge of the law is vast, his writing is crisp and elegant, he thinks of arguments that others have overlooked, and he presents his ideas clearly and powerfully. Jimmy is someone who not only will get the law right, but whose writing and influence will lead others to get the law right as well.
Our state is fortunate to have a governor who understands the importance of judicial appointments and the need to appoint brilliant textualists who will serve on the bench for decades to come. Justice Jimmy Blacklock exemplifies everything that Governor Abbott and constitutionalist conservatives want and expect from a judge. I’m proud to see my friend and former colleague ascend to our state supreme court, and I know that his future service on the bench will make you proud as well.
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