President Trump to Justice Roberts: ‘You’re Fired!’

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U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at Northwestern University Law School in Chicago on February 1, 2007. The author imagines a conversation between President Donald Trump and Justice Roberts: “Chief, you're fired. I am displeased with your work as chief justice. I wouldn't hire you to clean a courthouse in Poughkeepsie!" John Gress/reuters

This article first appeared on the Dorf on Law site.

The scene is the Oval Office. The date is January 21, 2017. President Trump is swinging a golf club when his intercom goes off. A soft female voice says:

“The chief justice is here to see you, Mr. President, sir.”

Trump responds, “OK, let him sweat for a few minutes.”

Trump continues to swing the club and on his fourth effort takes a chunk out of the wall. He shakes his head and goes back to the intercom.

“Sarah, make an appointment with my golf pro for 2 o'clock. And send the chief in.”

Roberts walks in, looks around the room, sees the dented wall.

Trump returns to his desk and with great indifference says, “Good morning, Chief, sit down. How are you?”

Roberts sits in a very small chair in front of the huge desk.

“Fine, Mr. President.”

“Good, you're fired. I am displeased with your work as chief justice. You have no managerial skills or experience. I wouldn't hire you to clean a courthouse in Poughkeepsie!"

Roberts pauses, then calmly responds, “With due respect, sir, you can't do that.”

Trump stands up behind the desk and puts his palms on the wood. “Of course I can. I am great. The presidency is great. And I'm going to make the Supreme Court great again."

Trump raises his voice: "I’ve fired everybody who’s ever worked for me, except my children…yet.

“I am the president. Every federal employee works for me, including you. So I can fire you, and I have fired you."

Roberts says sheepishly: “You don't think the Supreme Court is great?”

“No, you're terrible. You passed Obamacare. Twice!”

“Actually, sir, Congress passed it.”

Trump shakes his head. “They're worse than you. Who cares what Congress does? The members of Congress are my employees also, and I intend to fire them, maybe along with your seven colleagues, who are just talkative nothings, except for Justice Thomas, of course. And I will personally make health care great again."

“Well, sir, I do wish you the best of luck with all that. But I am afraid you can't fire me.”

“Why not?”

Roberts looks Trump right in the eye. “There are many reasons, sir, but for one, we Supreme Court justices serve during ‘good behavior.’”

“What? Your behavior has been terrible! Anyway, people who work for me have to have great behavior! Where does it say ‘good behavior’?”

Roberts sighs. “Article III of the Constitution. I can’t be fired, only impeached. I serve for life, unless I commit a high crime or misdemeanor.”

“That’s ridiculous. I'll hire the greatest constitutional law experts ever to change that. Besides, I am great at English and 'good behavior' doesn’t mean a job for life.”

“It’s more of an historical thing.”

Trump looks confused. “What is?”

“That good behavior means life tenure.”

“You’re not a fucking teacher! You don’t have any tenure. That is stupid. You’re stupid. This is exactly why you're fired! Besides, in my business no one has a job for life.”

“Well, this is a government, not a business, of course, and we have the separation of powers. It makes this country great.”

“I know, I know. I believe in separation of powers, the greatest separation of powers, and I am about to separate you from your powers.”

Roberts gets up to leave. “Well sir, I guess we will have to see."

“See what?”

“Whether you can actually fire me.”

Trump comes around from behind the desk and puts his arm around Roberts, who awkwardly tries to slide away.

“We could make a deal. I make the best deals.”

Roberts shakes his head. “I don’t think so, sir. I hold all the cards.”

“We’re not playing cards. We're playing government. And no, you don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Hold all the cards. I'm the boss. The big boss. The biggest boss. You'll see. Start packing."

Roberts shakes his head and walks toward where he came in. “I do have the Constitution on my side, and I’ll take my leave on that note.”

Trump yells at him, “Fine, I won’t fire you or the other judicial nothings. I will instruct the D.C. government to supply no electricity, telephone service, water or food to the Supreme Court. (There goes your crappy cafeteria.) I will order that the justices’ chairs and spittoons be removed and sold. I will convert the court’s garage into a hangar for my helicopters and limos. You'll see!”

Roberts exits. Trump goes back to his desk and picks up his golf club. He presses the intercom.

"Sarah, get Sotomakagan over here pronto. We're cleaning house!"

Eric Segall is the Kathy and Lawrence Ashe Professor of Law at the College of Law at Georgia State University.