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. Bill

    This has got to be a joke. He committed perjury.

    January 3, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  2. Undecided in Iowa, but not Hillary

    The thought makes me shudder.
    Even knowing the confirmation hearings would be a circus and not likely to succeed, I would not be surprised if Hillary did so at an opportune moment to distract the country from other more important issues.

    She is shifty and I will be caucusing for the candidate that will be best able to defeat her tonight.

    January 3, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. Patrick, Atllanta GA


    I hope people are smart enough to see through this kind of cr@p "journalism", but FOX, and now CNN, have proven me wrong time and time again.


    January 3, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. wordslinger


    A. She wouldn't do it because it would distract from every other initiative she may have.

    B. He wouldn't take it because:
    1. For the first time in his life he's making lots of money and won't give that up.
    2. There is no way he would submit to days of Senate Judiciary Committee questioning.

    January 3, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. Jim

    What I don't see mentioned by anyone here is that he would have to be confirmed, and I can't imagine that happening, even with a Democratic majority.

    January 3, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  6. ronnie j reichgelt

    Isn't Kenneth Starr the Dean of Law at Pepperdine? Oh ya, I'm sure there was no personal motivation for that perdiction on the eve of the Iowa caucus.

    January 3, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  7. Tony Elias

    Nice headline! Of course the "journalists" at CNN would rather publish the headline as a scare tactic instead of being honest and identifying, in the headline, that it's the opinion of some whacked out, right-wing, law professor.

    Typical for CNN, no wonder it's viewership has dropped, and it's respect as a viable news source has diminished. Between ridiculous headlines like this and hiring clowns like glen beck, one shouldn't be suprised.

    January 3, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  8. Katie

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but nowhere in this article does it say that Hillary Clinton has suggested this– it is just speculation. She didn't porpose this, she hasn't even commented on it herself. It seems like there is a negative headline about HRC on CNN.com every time I check the site. Whether it's her daughter not speaking to reporters (have we heard anything from any of the other candidates' children?) or any of the other candidates throwing insults at her, Senator Clinton just can't stay out of the news. It's appalling that CNN– and American politics– have sunk to this level.

    January 3, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  9. Roy

    I can't believe all the hate tactics and for CNN to make allegations before there was any results from the primaries. These are just rumors and there are some journalist who are pro-Hillary. People listen to your heart and not the media. I think the only decent journalist in CNN is Anderson Cooper, he doesn't make any judgement of any one or thing.

    GOOD Luck Hillary.

    January 3, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  10. dale

    This is just another attempt to inspire conservative fear and loathing for Hillary and energize the base for the "anyone but Hillary" vote. Why does CNN choose to report "news" such as this, which amounts to nothing more than another conservative pundit's strategically placed comments designed to fuel the fires of hatred for the Clintons.

    January 3, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  11. Donni

    Hey folks; it is SPECULATION.

    So let's speculate.... what better way for Obama or Edwards to slide into the lead as the potential democratic candidate by surreptitiously speculating that Bill would be nominated to the Supreme Court.

    While it is fun to speculate I doubt there is any real validity to this. Does anyone remember the Clarence Thomas debacle? He became a Justice but how many excruciating weeks were spent trying to determine if he was the right man for the job because of his alleged sexual harrassment? Let's see, Bill lied to the grand jury investigating him because he lied about sex with an intern under oath in a case involving sexual harrassment which he ultimately settled. Does Hillary really want to relive that? I give her credit for being smarter than that.

    January 3, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  12. Kelly

    This article neglects to mention that this conservative professor works with Kenneth Starr, Dean of Pepperdine Law School.

    January 3, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  13. Joe Bartolomeo

    It would only happen in United States. What silly idea....after all the scandals. I am very surprised how well she is doing in the presidential primaries election but I have faith she is not going to be elected as a democratic candidate. The next president is going to a republican.

    January 3, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. jay

    i'd rather have a judgeup there that lied and cheated and admitted it than some judge that thinks they are all high and mighty and feel the need to saywhat they want everyone else to do bc their way is the right way,.. and they won't even admit how arragoant they are... ie, alito, scalia and thomas.

    January 3, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. Richard F

    This story tells me more about Bill Mears and possibly CNN than about either Bill or Hillary Clinton. There is no factual information at all in this story (beyond the background on Taft), only innuendo. The pitching of this as a "news story" is obviously intended as an anti Democratic or Hillary smear not so different from the ol...."If you elect Democrats Terrorists will celebrate".

    Anyone can say anything. Is anything said news? One might make a case that someone in the public eye saying something MIGHT be news, but the individual saying this is NOT someone known by the public at large.

    CNN is sounding more like Fox News every day creating "news" out of nothing to suit its personal agenda.

    If Hillary were to become President, then her decisions would be news. If one were to KNOW of her agenda, this too could be news. But Joe Blow conjecturing to push an agenda is pure propaganda. CNN used to stand for more than this at one time.

    January 3, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  16. Bukky, Balt MD

    Judge Learned Hand January 3, 2008 12:07 pm ET

    As an attorney, am I the only one bothered that they would even consider a disbarred attorney for the Supreme Court? What's next…Brittany Spears as the head of Children Services?

    Why must you say "as an attorney' like that means anything.... But "as an attorney" you should know that ANYONE can be a justice, you dont even have to go to law school... Yes that means even Brittney can be a justice... And who are these "they" that you speak of. This never came out of Hillarys mouth or mouth peice... If you did not pick up on the "conservative law professor has openly predicted" you are not a lawyer....

    January 3, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  17. Civics 101

    Just want to point out that no president, Clinton included, has ever been impeached. Only the Senate can impeach a president, not the House. The House brought Articles of Impeachment against him but the Senate failed to Impeach. Think of it like indicting someone versus actually convicting him.

    January 3, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. Patricia Pratt

    It is quite evident that both Clintons are only interested in one thing, POWER and the money it will bring them. Neither of them have any morals, they conive constantly for their own benefit, lie cheat and accept money from undesirables whenever they think they can get away with it and do not wirj for the betterment of the USA, always only themselves. They have done so many sneaky underhanded and imoral things, they should be ashamed to show their faces to the decent people who still live in this great country. Anyone who votes for either of these people should have their heads examined. Can a person that was brought up on impeachment charges be elected to such a prestigous post?

    January 3, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  19. Laura


    January 3, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  20. Shannon, Charlottesville, VA

    it's funny to see all of you react to this non-story. this is just gossip and there are important stories, such as what's happening in kenya right now. cnn, get real.

    January 3, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  21. Rob in Canada

    Propoganda to sway voters in Iowa today. Wow – if that's their best shot at the Clintons – I say the Clintons are gonna win.

    This issue here is the Presidency – not the Supreme Court Justice! I can recognize this even North of the USA border.

    January 3, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  22. Jessica Corio

    Just the very thought has made my day. I know the idea is too good to be true, but I remember the awful sinking feeling I had when George Bush "beat" Al Gore. This would remedy that nicely.

    January 3, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  23. Kathy

    Chill out folks – I agree with a former writer that this is a Karl Rovian technique to scare the voters.

    And shame on CNN for printing this story!

    January 3, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  24. Shirley

    Even the thought of Bill Clinton being elected to ANY public office nauseates me. His lies disgraced the office of the President of the U.S. His actions lowered the moral standards of this country. Meanwhile, Hillary defended him for his actions! She blamed the accusations on the Republicans!! WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU ABOUT HER JUDGMENT AND HER ACTIONS UNDER CONFLICT!!!

    She should stay home and bake cookies for "her man" to keep him from prowling!

    January 3, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. Jeff - Jacksonville FL

    Actually, Bill Clinton was NOT disbarred. He "voluntarily" surrendered his license to practice law for a period of five years. Those five years are long since over. So technically he is a lawyer again.

    As far as whether he can be nominated....the President of the United States can nominate anybody he/she darn well pleases to the court. That nominee just has to get past the US Senate on their way to the bench. You don't even have to be a lawyer at all.

    And technically, Clinton was never CONVICTED of anything. He was impeached for perjery and acquitted. So his record is clean. Besides, if he DID have a criminal record, Hillary would pardon him before she nominated him anyway. 🙂

    January 3, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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