Shakespeare’s Trump Act IV, Scene I

The Supreme Court’s casual anteroom. Enter CLARENCE THOMAS, RUTH BADER GINSBURG, STEPHEN BREYER, JOHN ROBERTS, SAMUEL ALITO, SONIA SOTOMAYOR, ELENA KAGAN, NEIL GORSUCH, and BRETT KAVANAUGH.

JOHN ROBERTS.

Oyez, oyez, oyez! Once more we meet

Reviewing what to view, deciding what

We shall decide ourselves in judgment high.

More cases have been sent for nonet’s view

Than any number timely could resolve.

To follow custom, each of us shall speak

In order of appointment, first to last,

And none shall speak again ’til all be heard.

CLARENCE THOMAS.

Our first case, hereinafter so referr’d

As White House versus Christopher Astaire,

Concerns a wrongful termination charge

A Secret Serviceman hath levied at

The President. Though much about this claim

He hath redacted here to guarantee

The lives of other parties, what remains

Are documented email’d tête-à-têtes

In which Sir Trump hops flealike from goodwill

T’outrag’d dismissal within days or less.

But I must ask, what of that? Hath this weight?

I am perhaps expected to throw stones

Whenever some new plaintiff mentions Trump,

Who is no friend to Blacks, nor they to him,

With Kanye, Carson, Cain his conn’d controls.

But we are not our races. Nor can courts

Be regulators for each hothead head.

A worker stands upon his own two legs

Or falls, but let the chance to stand be his.

Our interference would but do him harm.

RUTH BADER GINSBURG.

Your voice, dear Clarence, e’er is sonorous.

I miss it when we sit in judgment hall.

You should, mayhap, increase your average

To asking one full question every year.

I am unlike thee, though my voic’d dissent

Echoes respectful mind. I think it right

To speak for mine own demographic slice,

For someone must, and when I first stood here,

Here was a nine-man Court that arch’d its brows

And let me sway on youth’s unsteady heels

To ratiocinate on gender-bas’d

Discrimination indiscriminate

Until I sway’d them. Willing to be sway’d

They were but wanted words I could provide.

And words are what this workplace case cannot

Provide us. Too much here must be unknown,

By very definition of the work:

A service done in cloud of secrecy.

We cannot judge that which we cannot know,

And knowing we know not, we should decline.

STEPHEN BREYER.

I have forgot my glasses. Brett, I ask

That you retrieve them, as the junior judge

Traditionally lends their able frame

To elders’ outer needs.

BRETT KAVANAUGH.

I serve with pride. Exit.

A silent moment. KAVANAUGH re-enters, carrying glasses, and hands them to BREYER.

STEPHEN BREYER.

We often find consensus in our votes

And often disagree, but rare it is

That Clarence’s and Ruth’s votes march as one

And yet mine walks another path. While sure

It is that facts o’this case must be abridg’d,

Much can be told, and what can be said should.

For liberty’s particularly risk’d

When law restricts speech meant for public ear,

Exempli gratia, in areas

Related to elected officers,

Their politics and policy new-made.

That special risk doth justify a shield

Supported by two bulging-bicep’d arms

Defending those who’d blow the whistle-slot

And sound high notes to power. Furthermore,

It justifieth carefullest review

When speech doth seek to shape the public mind,

Particularly if that mind in turn

Shall alter the political process

And the society in which we live.

JOHN ROBERTS.

I’d hop’d nemine contradicente,

Or unanimity, would rule us here,

But, Stephen, though I know it disappoints,

I must concur with Clarence and with Ruth.

Tricameral our nation must remain,

Its branches never touching e’en in storm.

GINSBURG has a mild coughing fit. Exit KAVANAUGH.

JOHN ROBERTS (aside).

A higher purpose governs me in this,

For narrow’d gazes from across the land

Have found their junction point at One First Street,

Our neoclassic home, since senators

Refus’d consideration of one judge,

Denying Merrick Garland’s laurel-band,

Promoting two instead. Them I respect

As I respect all colleagues on the Court.

But ideology, assum’d or real,

Was Mitch McConnell’s sole criterion

And burns like ants in eyes to liberals.

A boring year my schedule intends,

Assuring doubters that we are unchang’d.

These times are no doubt int’resting enough.

Enter KAVANAUGH with water and dumbbell, which he offers to GINSBURG. GINSBURG drinks and begins to lift the weight for a set of ten.

SAMUEL ALITO

I say we hear this case. It is not meet

To sabotage the Chief Executive

By countermanding orders he may make

Without his knowledge, as this young Astaire

Implies he did. Three branches kept apart

Is reasonable botany, as each

Thus has its chance to drink in air and sun,

But if a tree-branch gnarl’d and sickly grows,

Well-meant nonintervention will not heal.

And why should an employer so betray’d

Not rid themselves of upstart obstacle?

The rationales available grow thin.

One can no longer fairly be dismiss’d,

For gender, race, and faith, these we concede,

Though views once held by vast majority

Are label’d bigotry with eyeball’s blink.

But one should lose one’s work by heresy

On whether President can, should, must act

Unfetter’d by the unelected staff

Who govern governors’ own governance.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR

Agree I shall this is an argument,

And one worth joining, though I think it is

More referendum on the rights of serfs

And those trod under than the powerful.

The least impeded man in all the world

Needs not the court to tell him what he has,

So much as what his limitations are.

Female contraltos rarely punctuate

His broad digressions oratorical,

Far less the wisdom of Latinas ag’d

And wealthy in experience with both

The high and low of nation stratified.

Sooth this Astaire is not as likely

To lose his rights as criminal accus’d

Or one by skin demarcated from norm.

I cannot see how we would not dismiss

Such charges, but ’tis worthy to remind

The people now and then whence power springs,

From law, not will, from many, not from one.

E pluribus unum in mens sana.

ELENA KAGAN

In brief, my friends, I do not think there is

Much this in this. This singular White House

Hath little relevance to how a boss

May manage underlings in restaurants,

Gas stations, bars, or other offices.

A knock from offstage. Exit KAVANAUGH toward it.

ELENA KAGAN (aside).

Nor should it drive how we comport ourselves.

Knees skinn’d and knuckles scrap’d by rhetoric

Are common in these pugilistic days,

And only constant efforts do prevent

The Court’s succumbing to the blight that sicks

The Senate, House, and Presidential wings.

I am five-five, each vowel-consonant

In balance in two names of equal length.

Though I seek change as Sotomayor does,

I play a longer game, bridge-build,invest,

Convince my peers to narrow rulings’ lens

When threat to future fairness looms too large.

My gymnast’s step on bars laid parallel

Is only possible in civil Court.

To fight for justice, choose one’s fights with care.

Enter KAVANAUGH, hanging a WORLD’S GREATEST COURT poster on the wall.

NEIL GORSUCH.

The overweening courtroom should not house

The casting of such social policy.

’Tis hateful to judiciary work

And to the nation. Where the laws are set,

A law beneath the law may soon emerge,

In patterns visible between the lines

If one stares long enough that one’s eyes cross.

In legislation controversial,

A compromise is often the result.

But when we rule unconstitutional

Some instrument, we leave no elbow room

For friends to clasp their hands in settlement.

One side must win, the other side must lose.

In litigation constitutional,

Experiments and pilot programs fail

By failing to exist. We test ideas

In only abstract state of legal briefs

And lawyers’ arguments. We cannot gain

From give-and-take as Congresspeople can.

Our choice would be too stark t’be meaningful.

BRETT KAVANAUGH.

Agreed. The sunlight moves, let us move on.

(aside) Though newish, I have learned my colleagues’ ways

And feel it when their mental plaster sets:

This second round of comments will be sparse.

And thus, five-three, the matter is resolved

Ere me. Of this responsibility

I find myself reliev’d to be reliev’d.

For more than Neil, I’ve found myself judge judg’d,

Not only for beer-spatter’d college days

That I recall with bubbly sentiment

Though others chose to paint in darker shade,

But more, as mere extension of Trump’s will.

The Founders recognized political

Ambitions would be part of judges’ pasts,

But donning slate-black robes means shedding hues

Of partiality and partisans.

One kind of judge exists: the neutral kind.

This has been so for past two centuries,

And like much else about our nation fair,

I see no reason it should ever change.

We obey precedent, not President.

In pillar’d shelter from all one-term strife,

Each mind here is a lifelong resident,

And thus we stabilize a nation’s life.

GINSBURG coughs.

Writer of comics, crosswords and all manner of things.

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