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. Michelle

    January 3, 2008 12:36 pm ET

    I think there are some people here who need to sit down and actually read their U.S. Constitution. If they do, they'll find that Article II, Section 2, says that the president "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate…Judges of the supreme Court…" [I left the 18th century capitalization as is].

    If you are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, then you are a Supreme Court justice because the Constitution lays out no other qualification, except to say that judges "shall hold their offices during good behaviour" (Article III, Section 1), which means that they serve for life unless impeached and removed(although I'd be curious to hear any dissenting interpretations of that clause).

    Thank you – getting past the Senate is the kicker...so, you MAY be an impeached, disbarred, and convicted of perjury citizen, but you still have to answer to the Senate who only cares about ONE THING – staying in office and having to answer to the people who put them there. Thanks again for keeping us straight.

    January 3, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. Diane, Whitestone, New York

    Supreme Court Justice?? That's it????? Why can't he run on ticket as VP?? Sure circumvents Amendment 23 and kicks in Amendment 25. I would just die of happiness. Alas, just a dream, sigh. Oh, wait do I sound like Obama now? Go HIllary '08!!!!!

    January 3, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  3. Paul

    This nomination would barely make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, let alone through full senate confirmation. Committee member Dick Durbin, for example, has endorsed Barack Obama and not Hillary Clinton. Assuming Hillary does get the Democratic nomination, which is no slamdunk, I suspect a number of Democratic senators are not going to stick their political necks out for Bill and Hillary Clinton after the sophmoric, dishonest nonsense he embarrassed himself with as President. And forget about ANY Republican votes.

    Now....some sort of Ambassadorship? Maybe. But certainly not a seat on the Supreme Court.

    Think about it....the Democratic leardership is smarter than to risk their razor-thin margin in the Senate by confirming Bill Clinton as a Supreme Court Justice. And if she even nominates him, she may be providing the Republican Party with enough political ammunition to put the majority in senate very much back in play.

    Bad idea!!

    January 3, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  4. Son of Frank

    Consider the source of this "news".... Perperdine University.... Neo-Conservative westcoast Republican institution for the perpetuation of self-interested, self- centered, self-serving and selfish young Republican wannabees.

    Only a Perperdine type law professor would come up with this kind of sound bite "babble" to shock and awe" fear into the little blackhole souls of neo-cons in a crafty attempt to scare them away from the idea of having a capable, compassionate, inteligent, forward thinking, "peace and prosperity" candidate like Hillary Clinton in the whitehouse.

    Hillary and Bil, the more the neo-cons spit their venom at you the more sure I am that it's time for another Clinton at the top of the executive branch!!!!!!!

    January 3, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  5. eric, nyc

    Wow nothing like the specter of Bill on the High Court to get the hate filled conservative hawks out in force to lambast him and his wife. If any of you understood the havoc Thomas, Roberts, and Alito will cause in this country, perhaps you'd understand why we need a counterbalance on the high court. Or maybe you just dont care about personal rights.

    January 3, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  6. Diane, Whitestone, New York

    I make corrections to earlier post...I believe it is the 22nd Amendment I am referring to, followed by the 25th Amendment. GO HILLARY!

    January 3, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  7. sal lincoln nebraska

    Could he do any worse then the aging disgruntled primates we have sitting on the bench right now? If anyone says yes then they dont read the news or understand the laws of causality

    January 3, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  8. Dennis Bell

    You must be joking.....appoint a disbarred (for cause–felony perjury) lawyer to the US Supreme Court?!?!

    January 3, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  9. MCowley

    Running this article is absolutely irresponsible and a laughably transparent effort to make people fear Bill Clinton's role in a Hillary Clinton presidency. The writer does not even make an effort to attribute it to any credible source.

    January 3, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  10. Neill C., Montgomery, Alabama

    We'd be the laughing stock of the world if that were the case. Hopefully, if the worst happens and Hillary is elected and then she further compounds our folly by submitting him for the Supreme Court, the Republicans would fight it tooth and nail.

    The only reason he was not convited of about 17 felonies is because of Democrats toeing the party line and Republicans who were afraid of annoying their constituents. He was guilty as charged and everyone involved knew it.

    And additionally, if Hillary is elected, I predict that within 20 years the U.S.A. will be no more.

    January 3, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  11. sal lincoln nebraska

    CNN has a faulty website....Clinton will never do any worse then those old crusty primates on the bench right now, if you read the news you'll agree....If your angrey at life and want to punish other people for the bad things that you think are happening to you then you wont....Simple as that

    January 3, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. Ann

    Hillary '08!

    And I really don't mind Bill Clinton around in whatever role. He is a blessing for the world.

    January 3, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  13. carl

    This man is a disgrace to the office of president. Can anyone truly believe he could be a justice of the supreme court?

    January 3, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  14. Derek Miami, FL

    What does having an affair have to do with how Bill manages his job? As long as the wife forgives why everyone else cares about it I just don't get it!!! Get a life people and leave Clintons alone!
    President Clinton was one of the most successful presidents of the US. He has done some much for this country - his contribution to the society, Budget surplus for 4 YRS, better life and support for single parents, and respect round the WORLD are just to name the few. His approval rating was in 60-70%. Does it tell you guys anything at all???
    You go president Clinton! (Bill) You will be a necessary addition to your wife's administration.
    Although I was thinking president Clinton would do something else to improve the US image around the world, but I think Suprime Justice would do too. There is so much mess in the nation right now that you don't even know where to start.
    Clintons all the way!

    January 3, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  15. Eric

    No way. What is this? The National Enquirer? It would be politically stupid; Bill wouldn't want the shackles; and the Republicans would filibuster it until Kingdom come. It would be hilarious, though.

    January 3, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  16. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    Pepperdine University is a self-described "conservative" institution and nothing that comes from it is there-by intellectually valid.

    January 3, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  17. Michael Horrigan

    Bill Clinton's law license was suspened because he was found to that he perjured himself. He was fined and he pleaded guilty to this, a judge and AK bar assocation decided to suspend his law license. Many other laywers have been disbarred for life for less. ! I am not some right wing nut either, and did think had many fine qualities as President. Perhaps a diplomatac post would be a better fit for him.

    January 3, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. Saint Paul Mark

    This is Bill Mears starting a rumor. It is NOT news nor is it factual. CNN ought to retract the story. The bloggers to this story need to calm down and take a breath. Clinton is the "most dishonest president" in the history of the US. Really? What about Nixon? What about George W. Bush? Last I checked, US soldiers are DYING for Bush's dishonesty. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid there, Doug & Ryan Indianapolis (to name a few). You're just angry because your party was hijacked by the religious right and you can't do a thing about it.

    January 3, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  19. Timetheos

    This is old; a rehash if you will. I remember conservatives saying impeachment of Clinton was important because they wanted to keep him out of the SC.

    Frankly, Repugs should be pleased. Bill is a moderate, if not an old-style Republican. Perhaps they would prefer someone more progressive.

    How about Kucinich for SC?

    January 3, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. Edwardd, :Houston, TX

    Pres. Clinton is certainly more qualified then the fools and political hacks who were placed there by "W".

    January 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  21. Steve, Vidalia, GA

    Supreme Court nominees do not have to be attorneys. The President can nominate anyone he thinks he can get confirmed by the Senate.

    January 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  22. Paul, Wilkes Barre, PA

    I love all you Republicans. I've read so many postings on the perjury/impeachment issue, and how Republicans would filibuster a Bill nomination. Let me just make sure I have this straight.....perjury is bad unless committed by someone in a Republican administration, in which case it's then an honorable act. Right. Check. 2. A filibuster is wrong....Supreme court justices should have an up and down vote...but only if the nominee was put forth by a Republican President with a Republican Senate....otherwise a filibuster is fair game. Got it. Thanks for clearing that all up, hypocrites.

    January 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  23. Brandon, NY

    I think Bill Clinton was perhaps one of the best presidents of the last century and most definately the greatest political mind of the last century. Given this, I can't see him as a Supreme Court Justice, nor do I think Hillary would nominate him for the position. Such a position would be a waste of his political talents. It would be more useful to use him as ambasador to the UN or in foreign relations. I have to wonder then why such an article would be posted today? Who even suggested such a possibility, as I can't imagine it came from the Clinton camp? Such rumors seem more appropriate to the gossip pages of the national enquirer or page 6 of NY Post. It seems to me this story is more about politics and lacks any credibility.

    January 3, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  24. Lisla Lee, Dallas, TX

    RE post:
    Bill W January 3, 2008 2:29 pm ET
    Hey Clintonistas:
    Bill Clinton Disbarred
    October 1, 2001

    Go back and read your Fox story again, hon. It says he was suspended from "arguing before the Supreme Court." There's a big difference in not being able to argue your case before the Supreme Court and in practicing law. If you know diddly about the legal profession, you would have picked up on that.

    And yeah, like Fox News is such a bastion of truth & integrity.... NOT!

    January 3, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  25. Lisla Lee, Dallas, TX

    Whoops... I hit "send" too fast-

    Meant to include this clip from the Fox story too for old Bill W above:

    "Earlier this year, the Arkansas Supreme Court suspended Clinton's Arkansas law license for five years."

    Read it and weep, Bill W. His license was SUSPENDED for five years in 2001. If he chose to apply for readmission to the Arkansas bar today, his suspension is over & done with. My guess is that chances are he would be readmitted.

    My two cents worth.... your mileage may vary.

    January 3, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
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