Jon D. Michaels is professor of law at the UCLA School of Law and author of Constitutional Coup: Privatization’s Threat to the American Republic. Before joining a Zócalo Public Square/UCLA Downtown panel titled “Are American Presidents Above the Law?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles, he spoke in the green room about clerking for Justice Souter, In-N-Out Burger, and Robert Mueller.
What question do your students ask you most often?
Is there anything that can be done about Trump?
What’s your favorite place to eat in Westwood?
What’s your least favorite freeway?
All of them.
What American figure, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Who is your favorite president and why?
Franklin Roosevelt because he recognized that socioeconomic empowerment is a necessary condition of achieving a full-fledged American democracy.
What do you think is the one thing that we should privatize in America?
That’s a good one. That’s a great question. No one’s ever asked me that before. That’s a fantastic question. The trains. Amtrak.
What, if anything, do you miss about Washington, D.C.?
I could give a sappy answer, like the cherry blossoms. But it’s not the cherry blossoms. Honestly many of my friends and professional contacts are there. Anytime I want to do something in Washington it requires two days at least.
What does it take to get you on a dance floor?
I’ll let you know when it happens. Talk to me on Election Day 2020.
Who has the world’s best constitution?
Oh jeez. It’s hard to know in context, but the South African constitution has many, many admirable qualities to it.
What teacher or professor changed your life?
I’d say it was one of my law professors, Bruce Ackerman, who made me think I could do this for a living.
What’s the most memorable thing about working for Justice David Souter?
Ah. He’s well-known for various charming eccentricities, but I would say just his commitment to mastering the materials and coming to the right answer. Reading everything, reading everything twice. So, I guess the answer is some combination of his commitment to justice combined with his unparalleled work ethic. He’s such a model example for his clerks and pretty much everyone in the building to try to meet.
Who was the best special prosecutor of all time?
I am optimistic the answer is and will continue to be Robert Mueller.
Who was the worst special prosecutor?
The worst independent counsel was obviously Ken Starr.
Have you ever been prosecuted?
No, not yet. Fortunately.
If you could legalize one crime, which would you choose?
How about violating whatever is on those FBI warnings at the beginning of movies? Or pulling the mattress tag off the mattress.
What’s the best movie or book about a president?
I love the Teddy Roosevelt trilogy. In terms of a movie, I’m a sucker for the 1776 musical.
Who was the last person to leave you a voicemail?
Kelsey Hess to make sure I showed up.