January 3rd, 2008
11:52 AM ET
15 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 (535 Responses)
  1. brittany

    This would bring fear to my life. . It would be a mistake that I hope America doesn't make by letting her into office.

    January 3, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  2. RD

    How is this possibly "news"?! CNN is rapidly losing all credibility as a news provider. This shameless "story", which is nothing more than mere conjecture and innuendo, is no better than FOX "news". CNN owes an apology to both the credible journalists who once were associated with it, as well as to the public, for whom it apparently now assumes is too ignorant to want and demand real news stories. Congratulations on lowering the bar even further.

    January 3, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. Jon Stacey - TN

    I orginally voted Bush, what a mistake!!!
    Democrat for life after Bush...

    Hail the Clintons!!! They are the greatest...

    January 3, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. Angry Hillary Supporter

    Unbelievable! Looks like the fear of Hillary Clinton winning the presidential bid is so high that ridiculous rumors about what she would/would not do while president are flying everywhere. Shame on you CNN for spreading this rumor.

    January 3, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. david Arnopole


    January 3, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  6. MAG Fairfax, VA

    Let's see – he's a convicted felon liar, lost his law license, and was impeached.

    January 3, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. Ian

    No Chris Parent, speak for yourself and your lack of charater and morals. You may not give a lick about Bill past. I do. He lied to Congress, he lied to America. I care. Great example for your children, don't you think?

    January 3, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  8. Prodigaldog

    "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."

    Chyeah, right. You can take the boy out of the White House, but he's still gonna be a Repug hack.

    You want a Supreme Court horror story? Two words: Antonin Scalia.

    I hope he bought you dinner first, because this guy had his way with you.

    January 3, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  9. JK

    What garbage. This is right wing tripe to
    try and sabotage yet another election.

    January 3, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  10. Lisla Lee, Dallas, TX

    Where the heck do people come up with these wild eyed stories? And do any of you readers actually believe this would happen? Get real !!!!!

    This is some wild rumor started either by someone trying to discredit Hillary or someone trying to "make" the news instead of "report" the news. This is all such a joke that I can't believe any of you would even buy into it for a minute. Brain up, folks.

    January 3, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Practically - its a no-go. Take politics out of it and think logically. A husband of the president would have to recuse himself so often because the Supreme Court hears so many cases where the United States through the President (by the Solictor General) is a party. What good would that do her? Better to appoint a friendly who could actually vote for her position.

    This would only happen when she is headed out the door at the end of her term.

    January 3, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. Jan Delbert

    We NEED him as Secretary of State regardless of who wins the election.

    January 3, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Dan, TX

    This is a ridiculous article.

    As an Obama supporter I've seen CNN post garbage like this a lot. Looks like CNN has turned on Clinton to post such utter nonsense.

    January 3, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  14. JC Cincy

    It's difficult to see that the American people in denile as to the DANGER of another Clinton White House...If the people think Bush is strong headed, vote Clinton into the White House and HOLD ON....................

    JC Cincy

    January 3, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  15. Dan (Columbia, MD)

    So now we know the real reason Bubba has his puppet running for President.

    The Clintons have no honor.

    January 3, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  16. ben, La.

    Why not? He'd serve as well as or better than a lot of others. And if a 2nd opens occurs she could appoint Mike Huckabee.

    January 3, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. k david, NH

    As a citizen and a Hillary Clinton supporter I ask you to please take this posting out ASAP.
    It is unfair and unethical to post something like this that has absolutely no validity and a baseless rumor other than a venue to discredit Senator Clinton by her haters.
    Not on the day of the 1st Caucuses.

    CNN please apologize and and pull this out it is not NEWS.
    Thank You.

    January 3, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  18. Dan Morey

    There are no qualifications set in the Constitution for being a member of the Supreme Court (see Article III). An individual does not even have to be a lawyer to serve on the court. So, disbarment does not disqualify former President Clinton from serving on the court. However, he would face an uphill confirmation hearing, including receiving a rating by the ABA, which would most likely not look favorably on someone who had lost their legal licenses in Arkansas.

    January 3, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  19. FC

    Did you fact check this story with anyone who wasn't a conservative republican, or maybe anyone with half a brain??

    January 3, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  20. Rand

    So if Hillary wins the nomination and if she wins the general election and if a justice retires, she _might_ nominate Bill to the Supreme Court. And this is news how?

    January 3, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  21. heartlight 3, Maui, HI

    This is just idle speculation by a "respected conservative law professor", not anything that Hillary has even hinted that she is considering. It is amazing to me how these conservatives just make something up and send so many people into an absolute tizzy over it. How does this further the process? It is obviously designed to get people all in an uproar and stir up antipathy to Hillary. Can't we see through this kind of tactic after all the times it has been employed? I guess they keep doing it because it still works. Doesn't say much for the intelligence of the American public.

    January 3, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. Ryan S in KC

    **Is this not the same man that lied to a Grand Jury to cover his Butt? Is this not the same man that gave a pardon to one of the most notorious scam artists in existence? Is this not the same man that lied to the American people on National TV? Is this not the same man that was a disaster as President?**

    You're thinking of George W Bush.

    January 3, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. Richard

    What a freightening thought. Not that I needed a reason not to vote for her, it just kind of puts frosting on the cake!

    January 3, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. CAREN

    This is a story???????????????? She hasn't said she would. He hasn't said he's interested. Do you guys get paid by story or what?????

    January 3, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  25. Chris

    I see the whisper campaign has begun. Lets start some more.

    I heard Mitt is going to change the postal service dress code to match those of Mormon missionaries so when they come to the door you won't know if its to sign for a package or get converted.
    I heard Rudy is going to appoint his girl friends to differernt cabinet posts to keep them quiet.
    I heard McCain wrote the script for the new Rambo movie.

    Anyone got anymore they want to share? Mine are just as good as this crap!

    January 3, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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