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.
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.
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
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.
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.
I serve with pride. Exit.
A silent moment. KAVANAUGH re-enters, carrying glasses, and hands them to 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.