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. Liberal

    Liberals share a belief in individual rights, free enterprise and Yes we do have morals. That's why you don't find to many of us waiting in the Men's Room. What scares me most is the fact that you folks are worried about this rumor, but don't know what your Kid's are doing.

    Better Go Check on Them !!!!!!!!

    January 3, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  2. Hype

    Why not have a headline that reads, "IF ELECTED, HILLARY WILL EAT BABIES/"

    What basis is there for this headline? Nothing but speculation. How about doing some actual reporting on some actual REAL news?

    January 3, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  3. Christian, Tampa FL

    As much as I like Bill Clinton, I can't think of a more horrific idea. This country is already being hurt by partisanship, and it would be a kick in the face to all of this country's conservatives, plus a serious stretch of what is constitutionally acceptable, to appoint Clinton as a Justice.

    January 3, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  4. Stan Goodman

    WOW! Talk about nepotism!

    We all have to pray very hard for the continued good health of the sitting justices.

    January 3, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. Glenis Holland

    It amazes me that you could use Karl Burstein, the former Washing Post journalist you wrote a disparaging hearsay book about Hillary Clinton to give his opinion on the Iowa caucus. He jumped right in with his knife trying to carve her up.

    Unlike David Gergen who is a true political analyst and an honest one who is very objective, Burnstein made very little comment about the other candidates but focussed all this time on Hillary, calling her a liar. This coming from a man who LIED the American people for decades as to the identify of "Deep Throat". I guess he expect us to trust what he has to say now about Hillary whom we can see for ourself. I believe a person is allowed to change their minds about any issue at any time without someone calling them a liar.

    During the Iraq war it would have been suicidal for any politician to go against the war. Who knew that the "shock and awe " promoted by journalist like Mr. Burnstein and some of the heavy weights at CNN and other media houses actually meant the death of over 3000 American young men.

    January 3, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  6. BF

    This is a CNN 'headline' on the website??? This isn't news...this is a 'blog'–someone's hearsay, or opinion, or speculation...how can this be listed as real news– as a 'headline' on a major news site??? This is outrageous.

    This is just another example of how currupt CNN and other large media outlets are; they choose to call anything 'news' and broadcast this flimsy stuff far and wide in order to try to shape public opinion.


    January 3, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. Aaron

    Pressure to name a woman/hispanic/or younger lawyer? Who were Harriet Myers and Alberto Gonzalez? Does race/ethnicity/gender only matter if you are a Democratic nominee?

    January 3, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  8. Teddy, ND, IN

    Republicans cry immorality as their church heads and congressional reps are caught in homosexual relationship, with young kids, and one of their leading candidates can not remain faithful with one woman long enough to raise his kids. He can have his license reinstated especially when you have access to the highest seat in the world. This is the greatest mind of our generation. The great presidents have all had their mistresses. He didn't know the definition of the word "is". He would make a fine representative to the high court. For the lawyer its a republican publishing company that wanted Spears' mom to publish a parenting book, tell be where your cries where about that.

    January 3, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. Dr. Siebo M. H. Janssen

    Bill Clinton at the Supreme Court? I can only laugh...I'm a liberal – no question – but what have Clinton done for the constitutional law in the USA? In my eyes nothing – and he is pro capital punishment...no, no – we need people like Brennan and Marshall or Blackmun...

    Siebo Janssen

    January 3, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  10. Brian

    She may not be allowed to do it anyway.

    ANTI-NEPOTISM ACT: 5 U.S.C. ยง 3110
    States :
    A public official is prohibited from employing, appointing, promoting, advancing or advocating for appointment, employment promotion or advancement any relative for a civilian position in the agency in which the public official is serving.

    January 3, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  11. Amanda Pratt

    He does have an interesting way of seeing issues and a creative way of hiding the truth.....but that depends on what the definition of "is" is.

    January 3, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  12. Cable King Pittsburgh PA

    Put me in the line which says "no" to putting Billy "C' on the Supremest of American courts.

    His talents would be wasted on such an endeavor.

    This guy is a global player and can impact future world history with his efforts to eradicate poverty and bring world peace.

    Most of the world respects him and responds positively to his noble and effective

    On all of planet earth it is only the kneejerk far right nutjobs that find fault with him.

    Just for fun, ask yourself what service could George Bush have to offer the world after the end (Thank God) of the plague that he has wrought on all of humanity?

    January 3, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. Lisa

    I can not believe this story is actually being taken seriously or even that it is being published. Clearly, the timing suggests an agenda toward the Iowa Caucuses. Please, people! Like Bill Clinton doesn't have better things to do. I can't imagine he would even be interested. His efforts are on a much larger scale, more global, and diplomacy-related. Let's just see it for what it is...an unsubstantiated rumor which seems very effective in energyzing the Republican right. Aren't there more important issues to deal with in America right now?

    January 3, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. Daleo

    I wonder what CNN hope to gain from this charade. Since the beginnning of Clinton's campaign, she is always peddled by CNN as the frontunner with fake pollings thrown in our faces everyday.

    What I would like to see happen is Hillary win the primarys and face the republicans in the national election. I pray earnestly it would be Romney. Then you have never seen a negative campaign in all your lives. hillary will cringe to the marrow when these adverts are aired on TV. They wil bring back all those memories of Bill's administration. That, my friends, would be enough to send her scampering into her hole.

    People would turn off their TV's for the most part of the whole process. Reason; the republicans are unrelenting, they not only attack their opponents, they attack americans too. They will mess up your psyche so bad you would rather stay at home than vote for Hillary lest you be portrayed as accessory to immorality. I cannot wait people!

    January 3, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. Tony

    Wow! Please everyone, don't let the facts get in the way of your beliefs and opinions. Impeached over White water? Wasn't that the Sixty million dollar empty witch hunt?

    January 3, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  16. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    Quit blaming the Republicans you sheep, this article was from December 15th in the Wall street journal and CNN CHOSE TO POST IT TODAY.

    Kmiec has said nothing but good things about Bill Clinton and is just stating what has been discussed in many circles for a few years when it was first thrown out there that Hillarity would run for President.

    His law license was taken away, but the suspension ENDED in 2006, and for the rest of you enlightened progressives who obviously can't accomplish anything unless IT IS GIVEN to you, HE IS ELIGIBLE to be an associate justice.

    "She" could only nominate him for Chief Justice if they "Fostered" or "Willeyed" Roberts.

    Even as a frequent Clinton basher, I do see a useful role for him NO MATTER who the next President is, as a goodwill ambassador of some type.

    He has the gift of gab and is a first class Bulls&&&&er, he can point his finger and lie with the best of them unlike this dolt in office who can't complete a sentence if you spot him the subject and predicate.

    Ambassadors need to be like salesman and yes, Bill Clinton would do GREAT in that role.

    January 3, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  17. Jeff from Jersey

    It's a shame that so many people that have responded here can't see this for what it really is.It's ALL politics ALL of the time!Don't be such sheep and let the politician's self-serving twisting of words and of events and the media determine your vote.For a decision as important as who our next president is,especially at this critical time in history,take some time to study the politics,voting records and their stand on critical issues from BEFORE all the campaign rhetoric and smear campaigns started.Then sit someplace quiet,take a few deep breaths and do some thinking of your own.These knee-jerk reactions are exactly what the candidates and special interest groups are hoping for.Too many people are running willy-nilly from one candidate to another based solely on the rumors of the day.Have some convictions of your own and stand by them through this fire-storm of rumors,slander,assumptions and outright lies either from or about every single candidate.With todays technology ,computer generated videos and websites we can't believe anything we see,read or hear at election time.There is great wisdom in that old adage and it is an even wiser today!

    January 3, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. d

    I am amazed that it would even be considered. This is a man who lied under oath, and no one other than a Clinton would even think they could pull this off.

    January 3, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. Charla, Texarkana TX

    They don't call it the "Clinton News Network" for nothing, folks...........

    Shame on you, CNN!

    January 3, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  20. Jonah, Boston MA

    To all you Republicans whining about Clinton's impeachment:

    Seriously? That's still an argument in your camp? You still haven't admitted that he should never even have been under investigation in the first place? I mean, come on– it was marriage infidelity that in no way affected policy or diplomatic standing. Forget about the fact that he lied; he should never have had to answer on a national stage in the first place. It was a blatant Republican witch hunt and it was more of an embarassment for the right wing than it was for Clinton. I can't believe you people can still defend that farce of an impeachment with a straight place.

    So, just to recap: Clinton was impeached for cheating on his wife. Bush was NOT impeached for intentionally defrauding the nation to go to war, tacitly endorsing torture in violation of U.N. standards, holding detainees without charges or trials, staging press conferences and falsifying news, comitting election fraud (twice!), covering up documents about his military desertion, firing U.S. attorneys for political gain, outing an undercover C.I.A. agent for political gain, criminal failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina, and countless acts of shady corporate and political cronyism. And the scary thing is, I know I'm forgetting a bunch of stuff.

    At least a couple of those violations warrant not only impeachment, but imprisonment. "Defrauding the nation to go to war," notably, warrants a very long imprisonment–it's basically treason, but much, MUCH worse. So Republicans, think hard about the man you voted for when you cite Clinton's impeachment as the mark of a bad president.

    January 3, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |

    Vote for Hillary. Bill First Man. CNN SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!

    January 3, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. CE, Wisconsin, USA

    Voted for the man twice...can't imagine him on the Court. Bill ina black robe working with young law clerks....yikes!

    January 3, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  23. Jonah, Boston MA

    *"Straight place" should read "straight face," and apologies for the other typos and spelling errors; I'm a little tired.

    January 3, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  24. Cable King Pittsburgh PA

    Here's one to ponder:

    Howzabout Dubya on the Supremest of Courts?

    Whaduya think about that one?

    January 3, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  25. James Vermillion

    Of course, Taft was not appointed to the Supreme Court by his spouse. Government ethics laws do not permit an employee of the USG to make a decision that could have personal financial benefit for that employee. Giving one's spouse a fine job like Supreme Court Justice would certainly violate those ethics laws. Would Hillary then have to pardon herself for violating the law? I'm not sure she could do that - because if the President could "self pardon", then wouldn't Nixon have done that? Wouldn't Bill Clinton have done it to avoid the impeachment hearings? I'm afraid our legal system just doesn't have the necessary loopholes to let a politician give a lifetime plum job to their spouse. But then one must ask if the United States of America still wants to follow the rule of law ...

    January 3, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
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