Senator Patrick Leahy is the Democratic former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He remains a member of the committee. He must be one of the Senate’s unfunniest senators and most partisan hacks. Vice President Cheney spoke for a lot of us with his imprecation to Leahy back in 2004. Serving on the Judiciary Committee with Minnesota’s own Al Franken, however, has probably dimmed Leahy’s bulb in all departments.
Leahy showed his stuff in questioning Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett at the committee hearing on Willett’s nomination to the Fifth Circuit yesterday. Justice Willett is known to many of us as the most popular judicial practitioner on Twitter. He has more than 100,000 followers of his Twitter feed. His wit and humor are the principal source of his popularity. Below is an example from the top of his feed.
— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) March 21, 2015
The day after the April 2015 oral argument before the Supreme Court in the Obergefell case on same-sex marriage, Justice Willett tweeted that he could support a constitutional right to “marry bacon” (tweet below). Leahy characterized the tweet as an “attack” on Supreme Court decisions (even though Obergefell hadn’t yet been decided) and wondered why they should believe that Willett would respect Supreme Court precedent as a federal judge. This is numbskull hackery combined with witless stupidity.
I could support recognizing a constitutional right to marry bacon. pic.twitter.com/HKPW6tE4H6
— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) April 30, 2015
Justice Willett responded: “I don’t believe I had attacked Supreme Court precedent, but certainly, if I were fortunate enough to be confirmed as a federal circuit judge, I would be honor-bound, categorically, absolutely, to follow every controlling precedent.” Justice Willett pleaded that his tweet was his “attempt to inject a bit of levity.” Translation: it was a joke.
The only surprise is that Leahy didn’t grill Justice Willett over the patent inadequacies of his law library (tweet below). He should have asked him, if he believes in Supreme Court precedent, where are the Supreme Court opinions in his law library? While he professes his respect for precedent, does he think Supreme Court opinions belong with cartoons? Huh?
My law library is complete. pic.twitter.com/VkdKg2iD5I
— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) September 28, 2017
Leahy’s exchange with Justice Willett reminds me of the moment in Dr. Strangelove when President Merkin exclaims to General Turgdison and the Soviet ambassador, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!” Come to think of it, Leahy looks a little like Merkin.
For Leahy’s benefit Justice Willett added: “Senator, I believe every American is entitled to equal worth and dignity. I’ve never intended to disparage anyone and would never do so. That’s not where my heart is” (video below).