January 3rd, 2008
11:52 AM ET
6 years ago

Supreme Court Justice Bill Clinton?

Would President Hillary name Bill to the Supreme Court?

Would President Hillary name Bill to the Supreme Court?

WASHINGTON (CNN) - It is a title that would be sure to bring either fear or cheer to many Americans, depending on your political leanings: Supreme Court Justice Bill Clinton.

That provocative possibility has long been whispered in legal and political circles ever since Sen. Hillary Clinton became a viable candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Now a respected conservative law professor has openly predicted a future President Clinton would name her husband to the high court if a vacancy occurred.

Pepperdine Law School's Douglas Kmiec said, "The former president would be intrigued by court service and many would cheer him on."

Kmiec worked in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses as a top lawyer, but said he has no personal or political "disdain" for Bill Clinton.

CNN talked with several political and legal analysts of both ideological stripes, and while several laughed at the possibility, none would rule it out completely. And all those who spoke did so on background only.

There is precedent for such a nomination: William Howard Taft, who called his time as chief justice, from 1921 to 1930, the most rewarding of his career. He was president from 1909 to 1913.

As one Democratic political analyst said, "You may recall recent trial balloons that Mr. Clinton was perhaps interested in becoming U.N. secretary-general. If he is grasping for a similarly large stage to fill his ambitions and ego, what better place than the nation's highest court, where could serve for life if he wanted?"

But a conservative lawyer who argues regularly before the high court noted Chief Justice John Roberts is fully entrenched in his position, and that might be the only high court spot Clinton would want. He also might not enjoy the relative self-imposed anonymity the justices rely on to do their jobs free of political and public pressures.

"Court arguments are not televised, and most justices shy away from publicity as a matter of respect for the court's integrity," said this lawyer. "Could Justice Clinton follow their example?"

Politics, however, may trump family ties. Perhaps three justices or more could retire in the next four to eight years, among them some of the more liberal members of the bench. The new president might face competing pressures to name a woman, a minority - especially a Hispanic or an Asian-American - and a younger judge or lawyer to fill any vacancies, three qualifications a white male in his 60s like Clinton would not have.

"This particular idea has zero chance of coming true," said Thomas Goldstein, a top appellate attorney who writes on his popular Web site, scotusblog.com.

The more immediate effect of such talk might be more practical: it could help motivate conservative voters in an election year to ensure no Clinton ever reaches the White House or the Supreme Court anytime soon.

– CNN's Bill Mears


Filed under: Bill Clinton
soundoff (534 Responses)
  1. Shel, Seattle, WA

    I can't believe this. Posting this article ON ELECTION DAY in Iowa is a blatant attempt to bring out the fear card, and sink Hillary's chances. Why can't we leave rumors and innuendos OUT of election day news??

    January 3, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. roux

    CNN please continue to float this idea as it will seal her fate. I'm no political expert but Hillary Clinton will not be the next President and FWIW neither will Barrack "Barry" Obama.

    January 3, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  3. ebp

    William Howard Taft wasn't impeached.

    January 3, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. Matt, Arlington, VA

    Wow– It really is the end of the world as we know it.

    January 3, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. Robbie Jackson

    This would be one more reason not elect Hillary Clinton president! The tax payers of this country have already taken too much of a ride from these low -lifes..
    Paying for there legal bills accuquired while fighting impeachment, furnishing there home in New York, security for them, etc. Besides he lied under oath and as a conquence, lost his law licence. Why would anyone want this creep on our Nations Highest Court?

    January 3, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. Rans

    YES!!!! I love it!

    ONE more reason to vote for Hillary!

    January 3, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  7. Mark C

    Was Bill dis-barred over his little "legal problems"?

    If so, how would he be eligible for the Supreme Court?

    January 3, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  8. Lee v.l.

    The Liberals have no morals to begin with-so what would it matter. Then, they could have government funded abortions and lock up the Republicans. Their lives would be complete.

    January 3, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  9. gangwayjan chicago illinois

    While a great supporter of Bill's, and his political philosophy for the most part, I'm not sure that he would like the job, accept it or excel at it. Not the right guy, tempermanet-wise. Judging, even with the 8 others on the court, is a solitary occupation and one that does not exactly call for grand standing. Yes, a brilliant intellect might help and being able to persuade, to garner the votes of others would be a valuabe asset but it's not the "pressing the flesh" kind of operation Bill exceeds at. It's why Scalia and Douglas - the bright boys - are great a dissents but not so good at creating majorities and why Earl Warren - may be not the "A" student - was better at creating majorities and why we refer to the "Warren Court" still today (he was good at cobbling together those iconoclast bretheren of his into workable majorities). Rehnquist, at the end, sort of got the hang of it. I'm thinking all this "Bill on the Supreme Court" talk is just a little right wing patter meant to put a scare into folks. Not gonna happen. There are better uses for Bill and better names out there for a lasting change in direction on the Supreme Court.

    January 3, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  10. red33,cedar rapids, ia

    The kindest words regarding this I can say: Heaven Forbid!! There goes our justice system; this would be like turning the fox loose.

    January 3, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  11. Gil - California

    I don't like either Clinton but if the legal battles were overcome (his disbarment) there would be no reason he couldn't be nominated for the position, provided Hillary was not the president. If she were President it would screw up the balance of power, especially since he would rely on her for all his decisions just as he did when he was President.

    January 3, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  12. mike

    Why cann't CNN post Hillary here? I think this isn't fair to other candidates. Now they are using her sarrogates just like they did to attack Obama. I am not confident with CNN at all following how they hyped this country for Hillary's sake!

    January 3, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. WIlly

    This is a Story for the CNN kool-aids drinkers. Mrs. Bill Clinton will not win.

    January 3, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  14. Mike, NJ

    There is absolutely NO requirement in the US Constitution that a justice of the SCOTUS even be an attorney, much less one with a disciplinary record. PS – Bill was never disbarred.

    January 3, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  15. dg

    I'm very dissapointed, but not surprised to see something like this posted on CNN.com.

    This is clearly the GOP's way of energizing the base, rather than any serious political discourse. If you read it carefully there is nothing there – simply pundits citing thirde hand sources. The main source is a republican that is not even connected to the Clinton campaign. It's true that Hillary Clinton COULD name Bill Clinton the the supreme court. She also COULD name him ambassador to France, for pete's sake...

    Until you have sources within the campaign saying that this is on the agenda then you are reporting rumor and innuendo as fact, and you are wrong, wrong, wrong to do so.

    CNN, stop letting the far right use you!!!

    January 3, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  16. Andrew

    Most of you don't understand the appointment requirements for the Supreme Court. There is no constitutional requirement to even be a lawyer, let a lone a judge, to be appointed, The President can pretty much appoint any US citizen he wants to the court.

    Quit this BS, there is no way he would be confirmed. Stop arguing about this nonsense.

    January 3, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  17. CL Orlando

    Wasn’t he disbarred for perjury? I don't think he can serve on the SP with that on his resume.

    January 3, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  18. Lisa H., Ann Arbor, MI

    CNN. Please don't report this crap. Just a bunch of whispers, and most definitely not a coincidence that it's published the day of the Iowa caucuses.

    January 3, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. P.Ogo

    This is pure right-wing boviating meant for the AM right-wing radio hordes who swallow hook,line and sinker that swallow the propagnda these types spew for ratings and profit. The right-wing types who sold gb will pull all the control rods to fuel the reactor to a mind boggling fever pitch worthy of a cherynoble like explosion of hatred against the Clinton Camp. Although this story is worthy of say a "newspaper" like the Inquierer status its hardly worth the print cnn.

    January 3, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  20. Jeff

    What irresponsible conjecture. Hillary nominating her husband is a laughable assertion and he wouldn't get confirmed. Mr.Kmiec is only postulating and it's a ludicrous theory at best.

    January 3, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  21. John

    What a bunch of politically-timed-calculated-to-the-second B.S . designed to influence a particular caucas going on in one of the states today!!

    I think I'll play havoc with the expected focus group findings, and say loudly: GREAT IDEA! put Bill in the Supreme Court Hillary!

    Did I mess up your expected voter reaction calculation? So sorry........

    January 3, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  22. jackie

    to oswegosnowbound.

    In YOUR own face.
    Let's all hope it happens.
    This country needs to recapture their sense of humor along with a balanced budget.
    Bring on the Clinton administration and we'll have both.

    January 3, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  23. gangwayjan chicago illinois

    While a great supporter of Bill's, and his political philosophy for the most part, I'm not sure that he would like the job, accept it or excel at it. Not the right guy, temperment-wise. Judging, even with the 8 others on the court, is a solitary occupation and one that does not exactly call for grand standing. Yes, a brilliant intellect might help and being able to persuade, to garner the votes of others would be a valuabe asset but it's not the "pressing the flesh" kind of operation Bill is good at. It's why Scalia and Douglas - the bright boys - are great at dissents but not so good at creating majorities and why Earl Warren - may be not the "A" student - was better at creating majorities and why we refer to the "Warren Court" still today (he could cobble together those iconoclast bretheren of his into workable majorities). Rehnquist, at the end, sort of got the hang of it. I'm thinking all this "Bill on the Supreme Court" talk is just a little right wing patter meant to put a scare into folks. Not gonna happen. There are better uses for Bill and better names out there for a lasting change in direction on the Supreme Court.

    January 3, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  24. Harry bossman

    This is a calculated attempt to tarnish Hillay's image.

    Such rumors are baseless.

    January 3, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  25. L2L

    No requirement that a United States Supreme Court Justice be an attorney in good standing.

    January 3, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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