I don’t know Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett well personally, but I’ve thought his judicial opinions have been very interesting and thoughtful; and the times I’ve met him, I’ve likewise been much impressed. One indicator of his intellectual qualities: While a sitting judge, he enrolled and got an LLM degree in the Master of Judicial Studies program at Duke Law School. No- one makes judges do that; they do that only if they really want to further hone their abilities and think about the law academically as well as pragmatically. Another superb choice.
Going back a few months, Orin Kerr beat me to endorsing University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Stephanos Bibas, who was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, and he can speak especially well about Bibas, who works in one of Kerr’s fields (criminal procedure). But I, too, know Bibas well and think very highly of him and his work; he’s one of the top criminal procedure scholars in the country.
Finally, Allison Eid, who was nominated to the 10th Circuit this Summer, is also very smart — she’s also been a Supreme Court clerk, a law professor and a state supreme court justice (in Colorado); I don’t know her as well as I know Ho and Bibas, but I know her enough to be confident that she’d make an excellent Circuit Court judge. And I would say the same about David Stras, a Minnesota Supreme Court justice and also a former Supreme Court clerk and law professor, nominated to the 8th Circuit.
I’ve also heard very good things about some of the other recent nominees, but these are just the ones I can speak about based on personal knowledge.