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. G-D-I

    See this link to the "trial" of President Clinton. The House voted to impeach along party lines, and the Senate failed to convict on the two points forward. 15 Repubs crossed party lines and voted against conviction. And "No", he wasn't disbarred.


    Those right-wingers that continuously rely on revisionist histories and "convenient truths" do little in encouraging the political discourse in this country. Fear and hate mongering has no place in either the legitimate media or politics of this nation as we move forward- get with it people!

    Look beyond the sound bites- they are eating your brain...

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

    Clinton in the supreme court That would be dream come true, and fitting concidering The last two supreme court judges would'nt even be there if Diebolds electronic voting machines had'nt rigged our election out come.

    Ever wonder why Exit polling Stopped matching voting results after electronic voting was introduced. Exit polling is the international gold standard for determining if an Election is fair.

    Go Hillary. We love you Babe

    January 3, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  3. Karen L. Reimer, Mt. Bethel, PA

    CNN should be "disbarred" as a legitimate news media. This story is so obviously planted but by who?

    January 3, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  4. Steve, Canada

    The Republicans are more scared of Obama than Hillary...just look at the head to head polls...he wins by 8-10, she wins 1-2.

    If this was a Republican plot, it was pretty stupid.

    January 3, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  5. cureholder

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

    Hmmm . . . true or not? The following (all appointed in the last 80 years) had NO judicial experience before joing the Supreme Court (and two of them were Chief Justices):

    1. William Rehnquist (CJ)
    2. Lewis Powell
    3. Abe Fortas
    4. Byron White
    5. Arthur Goldberg
    6. Earl Warren (CJ)
    7. Tom Clark
    8. Harold Burton
    9. Robert Jackson
    10. James Byrnes

    January 3, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  6. Tom, Bellevue, Washington

    A pretty disengenious article. Might as well float the rumors that any other presidential SO will be nominated for high ranking positions. Because people would get pissed off about that as well for obvious reasons. On top of that, the Clintons serve as red meat for a certain subset of the Republican party. Any story like this is just a rallying call for smearing H. Clinton over ficticious reasons and rumor-spreading.

    It's smear. It's drivel. H. Clinton is not my favorite candidate either, but us voters should find realistic reasons to not like someone. Not this style from CNN's writer Bll Mears.

    January 3, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  7. Bridget

    I agree with Rochester N.Y.-this smell like a neo-con trick to generate more hatred for Hillary (not that Bill wouldn't be a great choice)

    The right wingers are a desparate lot!

    January 3, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  8. Bill W

    Hey Clintonistas:

    Bill Clinton Disbarred
    October 1, 2001


    Don't tell us he wasn't disbarred.

    January 3, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  9. Franky, New York, NY

    BOOOOOO!!! ...to CNN. I watch you quite a bit and cannot believe you would print what amounts to "gossip" news. Mrs. Clinton doesn't need provocative speculation like this right now, weighing her down.

    Go Hillary – in Iowa, then New Hampshire..Nevada, South Carolina and the Motherload on February 5th!

    January 3, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  10. What the

    When does the rumor moderation start ? Who will be the rumor moderator ?

    January 3, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  11. Matthew

    Because the Constitution does not set forth any qualifications for service as a Justice, the President may nominate anyone to serve. However, that person must receive the confirmation of the Senate, meaning that a majority of that body must find that person to be a suitable candidate for a lifetime appointment on the nation's highest court.

    This means that the President can nominate a convicted serial rapist to be a Supreme Court justice if he or she was so inclined. As long as the Senate approves the nomination, there are no other rules or other qualifications that a person needs other than being alive – and even that is debatable.

    January 3, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  12. Richard Greenstone

    This is a nonsensical story. The conflict of interest issues are huge; Bill Clinton would have to recuse himself from every decision concerning the administration during the time that Hillary Clinton would be president. This story sounds more like a Republican plant in order to scare persons from voting for Hillary Clinton.

    January 3, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. One_American

    There is absolute zero chance that anyone would appoint as Supreme Court Justice – one who so flagrantly has complete disregard for the law – as Bill Clinton does.

    January 3, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  14. John, Dallas, TX

    I think Clinton would be a great addition to the Supreme Court. As most know (but refuse to acknowledge), Bill did NOT commit perjury. As a lawyer (and former Attorney General of Arkansas), he knows enough not to lie in a court of law (or in front of a grand jury). He asked for a definition of sexual relations, got one, and then stated authoritatively (and TRUTHFULLY) that he had not had sexual relations with that woman – it's the lawyer's fault that he did not press for a more inclusive definition that would have forced Clinton to answer differently.

    In any case, as most know (but refuse to acknowledge), the whole incident was politically motivated – Clinton should never have been asked those questions in the first place! It was merely a desperate attempt by the radical Right to smear one of the finest (and most popular) Presidents of the 20th Century. Supreme Court justice? Right on, Bill!

    January 3, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  15. kc

    What a ridiculous non-story. CNN sinking to the level of Drudge.

    January 3, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. newsjunky

    If Hillary nominated Bill for the supreme court, the senate would have to confirm him. This would give every Republican senator a chance to confront him face to face in front of a camera. Then republicans could filibuster the nomination. This would be a huge political victory for Republican senators. Why would anyone think that Hillary would be so dumb. She did graduate 1st in her class at Yale Law.

    January 3, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  17. Jim C

    This isn't a CNN plot to defeat Hilliary, it's just a plain stupid article, plenty of room on the Internet for even CNN to run trash journalism, it's done all the time.

    Actually, CNN has been very kind to Hilliary, even rigging debates to make Hilliary look like "one of the boys"

    Wait until the general election campaign, when Hilliary runs against her GOP opponent, and tell me CNN is trying to defeat Hilliary.....nothing could be farther from the truth...

    and truth takes a holiday when CNN is involved.

    January 3, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. Jim

    Does the Supreme Court have interns?

    January 3, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  19. jojovirginia

    Bill Mears and his editor should be fired or severely reprimanded for posting this article today. Did anyone think to verify this story? Perhaps ask the Clintons about it? [FYI – I am not a Hillary Clinton supporter. Rather, I am a very disappointed cnn.com reader.] It is pure propaganda posted on Iowa caucus day - shame on CNN. For years I have turned to cnn.com for my news, but I've noticed a trend toward using misleading, teasing headliners that lead to completely irrelevant stories. I will no longer be reading cnn.com (for anything other than entertainment value) and plan to find an unbiased "news" source. However, in today's America, that may be impossible. Suggestions?

    January 3, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  20. Kevin

    I can't wait for the Dems to win this election and finally bring some non-right wingers to the bench. It's going to be both hilarious and satisfying to see the Hannity types squeal and cry for the next eight years!

    January 3, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  21. AmericanVoter

    My drive must be scrogged badly, otherwise Fox news would not be showing up on CNN's URL...

    John Edwards makes a very valid point when he says that America doesn't need Rupert (or anyone else for that matter) controlling media, because this is the type of hype and dung we the people get handed...

    This is an obvious ploy to manipulate voters.

    January 3, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  22. Brian

    I honestly think that Bill Clinton would be a fine Justice. However, the article is probably correct in that he wouldn't necessarily want that kind of position for himself when he has enjoyed far more of both a public face and influence in the world since leaving office. In addition, if Hillary were elected President, I don't believe he would serve in that post. Although not against the law, there would be a HUGE conflict of interest in doing so and it would never get past such a divided Senate as we have now.

    He also would never become UN Secretary-General for the same reason. That and the fact that the UN would probably destroy itself if an American - or indeed any of the Security Council countries - were put in that position.

    January 3, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. Sally Fitzgerald

    You do not have to be a lawyer to become a member of the supreme court. So it does not matter if you are a member of the American Bar Association.

    January 3, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. julie

    That ought to get the Republican vote out in droves.

    January 3, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  25. EB

    I know others have beat me to this point, but I do think it's outrageous to at the very least have not mentioned Ken Starr is the Dean of Pepperdine Law. Beyond that, Pepperdine Law is beyond conservative. (For example, students, staff and faculty have to commit to remaining celibate if they aren't married. A policy more likely to come out of a place like Liberty than Boalt Hall.)

    At least this posting to The Ticker was positive in one respect: it provided me with further evidence that CNN doesn't have a liberal bias. Haven't you guys seen that stupid documentary? You can't outfox fox!

    January 3, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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