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)


    January 3, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  2. Steve, Madison WI

    Definitely a Faux News type scare tactic – although if Clarence Thomas can make it on the Supreme Court then why not Bill Clinton ( or Arnold for that matter).
    Given the current motley crew sitting (Scalia, Thomas & Roberts), anyone would be an improvement.

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

    Practically speaking it wouldn't work anyway. He would have to recuse himself when the US is a party because his wife is representing the US through the Solictor General.

    She would appoint a friendly who would vote her way not one who would have to sit on the sidelines.

    January 3, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  4. Joyce --- Virginia

    Here we go again scare tactics from the Republicians. There is a great-right -wing conspiracy out there. Well this time the Dem's have a Silent mojority out there. How dumb does the Republicians think the American public is. IT WON'T WORK THIS TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 3, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  5. scott

    How soon we forget...this man was DISBARRED in Arkansas! How can someone who has disbarred be named to the Supreme Court? And as much as this might feed Mr. Clinton's inflated ego in the short term, it would lock him to one job and prevent him from taking advantage of other opportunities. No way that would ever happen.

    January 3, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. TJB

    President Clinton was disbarred by the state of Arkansas in 2001 for five years. He has presumably regained his law license. However, he resigned from the Supreme Court bar to avoid being permanantly suspended. He can ask for reinstatement but as of now, can not argue a case before the Supreme Court.

    In any case, I can't imagine even the Democrats voting to confirm him to the Supreme Court while Hillary is President. That would be an obvious conflict of interest and put an enormous strain on the balance of powers. A future President might get away with it but not Hillary.

    January 3, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  7. Eliza, Iowa City

    This speculative fantasy by a Republican partisan is not news. Shame on you CNN for putting this story on the portal. Surely there is some real news in the world somewhere that deserves attention.

    January 3, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  8. Sean

    Yeah, way to lean right CNN. Even though there's been "speculation" for more than a year, this supposedly credible and unbiased news source opts to publish this article on the day of the first presidential caucus? Perhaps this is too hectic a time for CNN's editors to enforce ethical and unbiased journalism from their reporters? This was an acutely-timed political maneuver and it is shameful.

    January 3, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. JC, Topeka, Kansas

    Gee, it seems to me that there would have to be an opening first. Now then, he does hold a degree in Consitutional Law, and I find it hard to believe that he would be a worst choice than any of the individuals that we have been sattled with fir "life" by the current occupant of the White House.

    But in the mean time to the ultra right Bush supporters, that absolutely cringe when they hear the name of Clinton used, lets get the election finished first and actually elect the President, I know this is a novel approach, than we can think about appointments where there are no openings.

    January 3, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  10. Pippen, Arlington VA

    Bill Clinton was disbarred for 5 years in Arkansas. He was then suspended by the Supreme Court bar and chose to resign from the Supreme Court bar rather than be disbarred. That being said, you don't even need to be a trained lawyer to be on the Supreme Court. It's probably pointless though, he'd face 100% republican opposition and surely there would be enough democrats to vote against such nepotism (assuming Hillary nominated him).

    January 3, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  11. MW

    You people need to get your facts right...Clinton was never disbarred. He resigned from the Supreme Court bar under the threat of disbarment. The Arkansas bar moved to disbar Clinton, but offered a deal that saw him suspended for five years. Because he was allowed to reapply to the bar after the suspension ended in 2006, his punishment is not considered disbarment. And even if he was, disbarment is not always permanent.

    January 3, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  12. Stevec

    Do you really beleieve this:

    he did a great job nationally and internationally.


    The weapons of mass destruction, we mis reported from the intel community from BOTH admins.

    Kerry who had access to classified doc's even said so. But more importantly, what do you think Saddam used on the Kurds, cotton balls? Yes he had them, hid them. Wake up.

    Hillary is a risk to this country.

    As Co-President during Bill's terms, she REALLY can't even be running. There is NO provision for Co-Presidency on the Constitution.

    Let alone, Hillary admitting that she was given and had access to classified documents. This alone is against the law. \

    Stop swilling the kool-aide and wake up.

    January 3, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. Jo

    What kind of story is this? A law professor predicted this and it made the news like there was some credit to the story. It is no wonder lawyers and journalists are at the top of the list of people you cant trust.

    January 3, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  14. Les

    Any PERSON appointed to be in the US supreme court is REQUIRED to be a LAWYER. Before the said person can even face the senate for nomination, the US BAR ASSOCIATION will thoroughly study the decisions this person made in the court of law.

    I haven't heard an accountant or a historian sitting at the USC.

    As one quote i've read a long time ago; "EVERYONE HAS RIGHT TO BE STUPID, SOME JUST ABUSE THE PRIVILEGE."

    January 3, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  15. Richard

    To follow up with Andrew, there is NO federal law, requiring any federal judge to be a lawyer, including the Supremes, disbarred means nothing. Obviously not to Hillary either if this is even remotley true! How typical odf a man who has never held down a job in his life off the public dole.

    January 3, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. georgia caver

    A bit of speculation that has been "whispered in legal and political circles" is not substantial enough for the headline or the story itself. Running this "story" on the day of the first meaningful "votes" of the primary season seems designed to do one thing: stir up anti-Clinton emotions.

    January 3, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  17. Jackie

    Are you kidding me? Why print this? and now? Political propaganda at its finest. Seriously? Stop printing rumors and stick to the facts..I'm disappointed in your choice in publishing this work as a respectable media outlet. Hmmm.....this is why people don't vote with their heads!

    January 3, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  18. parany20011

    its clear why "xtina chicago IL", from her days as a Wal-Mart board member (which mysteriously disappeared from her resume), Hilary Clinton has shown herself to be an active participant in croneyism and wouldn't think twice about appointing her seriously morally weak husband to our nation's Supreme Court.

    January 3, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  19. ulysses

    Look at all the stupid republicans jumping over themselves to reject Hillary for something she didn't suggest or even talk about. This is an idea that was only suggested by Republican strategists as a "what if" to scare voters. Is Bill Clinton the best boogieman you can come up with? Apparently your constituents are dumb enough to fall for it, so good for you.
    Anybody bother to ask Hillary what she thinks? Maybe they know they'll get laughed at.

    January 3, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  20. Lisla Lee, Dallas, TX

    Did any of you read who started this rumor in the first place?????

    Quote from the second paragraph of this ridiculous story:

    "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."

    Does this not smack of a planted story attempting to scare potential on-the-fence voters? People, wake up and use your brains. This would never happen. First of all, Bill wouldn't want the job. Second, Hillary is smarter than that.

    Common sense, please!!!!!!!!!! People who believe cr– like this shouldn't even be allowed to vote in the first place. Scares me to think people are actually that dumb.

    CNN– you should be ashamed to even report stuff like this. You're starting to look more like the National Enquirer every day.

    January 3, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  21. Billy Bleu

    Anyone that believes this would happen is an idiot. This reaks of the typical "Rovian" scare tactics to try and stop Hillary from doing well in the primaries. When are the people of America going to wake up and realize the Karl Rove Republicans are using them and their ignorance to run this once great country into the ground!! WAKE UP AMERICA!! Vote for whom you want but don't make your decisions based on these bafunish posts!! Get to know your canidates or stay home!

    January 3, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  22. Ryan, Salt Lake City, UT

    Bill will be 63 in 2009 - there is no chance that Hillary would appoint Bill given the trend of appointing justices in their late 40's/early 50's to ensure longer service at the court. Why loose a good decade of votes?

    January 3, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  23. Lola

    Oh, come on, people. This is just a Rove-engineered rumor, perfectly timed for the primary. Don't you know when you are being manipulated? WAKE UP!!!!

    January 3, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  24. David, Cleveland, Ohio

    The comment that there are no "requirements" for the job may be in the true "consititutional" vein, but look at reality people.

    In the last 80 years the individuals that have been appointed to the supreme court have come from judicial backgrounds.

    Any person that does not have a background of issuing decisions, arguing, evaluating and discussing constitutional matters at some level in the judiciary would be laughed out of the confirmation hearings. And that would include Bill Clinton.

    Oh and by the way, nice touch on the conspiracy issues you dolt's.

    Now, get back to work. 🙂

    January 3, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  25. Marge Hibbing Mn

    Just another republican attempt to shoot down Hillary's run for the nomination. Don't you legal beavers remember that President Clinton was disbarred. How can he be named to the Supreme Court. Or does that matter.

    January 3, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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