You’ll Never Tweet As Well As This Texas Judge

By order of the 84th Texas Legislature, Justice Don Willett has just become our official “Tweeter Laureate.”

By Luke QuintonJune 11, 2015 10:48 am

He may be a judge on the Supreme Court of this state, but in his spare time online, Justice Don Willett has posted nearly 17,000 tweets, and he has more than 18,000 followers.

So what makes the judge so popular online? Well, in a killer pun on breakfast cereal, he’s called his own tweets “magically judicious.” (Get it?) And his feed is filled his page with pictures, memes and jokes about the law.

In his typical way with words, Justice Willett says the title of Tweeter Laureate was “a lofty but lighthearted honor. I think it underscores the playfulness – but believe me we obscure judges need all the positive publicity we can get.”

But Justice Willett’s original reason for using Twitter was not social – it was political.

“For someone who has to run for reelection in a state of 27 million people, it is political malpractice not to engage smartly via social media. Social media was fairly new during my first campaign nine years ago” Justice Willett says. “But it was ubiquitous by the time I sought reelection in 2012. I believe it’s foolhardy not to harness the power of social media to boost visibility and raise awareness.”

Screencap via Twitter

As you might expect from Texas’ Tweeter Laureate, the Justice’s tweets are meticulously crafted. “Brevity and clarity are often mortal enemies,” he says, “so it does force you to think and rewrite and edit which is all good practice for a writer, judicial or otherwise. Some people have described me as the most funny judge or the most interesting public official on twitter, but really that is a bar so low it is practically subterranean.”

Willett calls his Twitter feed a compilation of his my random musing on the passing scenes. But he says he leaves out political jabs, as a rule. “That, I think is why my followers really span a political spectrum. I do have one cardinal rule, as a judge, I don’t throw partisan sharp elbows, I don’t discuss issues that could appear before the court, and I may post links to news items but I never give my personal two-cents worth on disputed legal issues or pending cases.”

He avoids re-tweeting because it forces people to guess your opinions on the matter. Justice Willett isn’t so naive as to think social media is strictly a force for good. “That forced brevity of social media can obscure and distort high-stakes issues because people appreciate zing over substance sometimes. So mastering the mix of precision, tone, nuance and context in 140 characters is mighty tough. So I diligently self-censor and aim for carefulness before I hit the tweet button.”

Screencap via Twitter

Screencap via Twitter