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. Dee

    That would be a joke to the whole United States to put Bill Clinton in the supreme court.

    January 3, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  2. Ed

    Sounds crazy! The ladies on the supreme court would have to be carful.
    We wouldnt want to do anything under the table!

    January 3, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  3. Michelle

    ...he thinks he can get confirmed by the Senate

    two issues HE thinks, assuming Hillary doesn't make it, and Senate confirmed – also not going to make it. Thanks.

    January 3, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  4. gp

    ridiculous! hasn't he been disbarred by the state of arkansas? one would think that would disqualify him-if he was a Republican it sure would

    January 3, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  5. Samantha Klein

    Romney would do well to muss his hair up a little bit. He's way too slick. Slick Mitty.

    I, for one, don't believe anything that he says. He funds his own campaign, so that's really a slick way to buy yourself an election.

    Slickness and richness is not what America needs for a President. And we don't need someone who's shifted 180 degrees on important issues since he ran and won the election for Governor of Massachusetts. If he changed his mind so often before this Presidential run, how many times will be change his mind afterward?

    Let's have someone less slick, maybe even a little rough, but more honest.

    January 3, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  6. Lisla Lee, Dallas, TX

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

    I'm glad I wasn't drinking my coffee when I read that. It would be all over the screen by now. What a doofus comment! George W. (and Dick Cheney) have done more to destroy the US than anybody else on the face of the earth. If you want to start playing the blame game, then you need to start with the REAL culprits... and unfortunately they currently occupy the two highest offices in this country. Whoever wins the next election (Democrat or Republican) has a HUGE REBUILDING effort before them just trying to correct all the political damage the Bush administration has done to us not only from within our own nation but across the globe with every other major country. This administration has been a total dismal failure, and not only us, but our kids, grandkids, & great grandkids (and maybe beyond) will have to pay the price for the ineptitude, arrogance, and stupidity of the Bush administration.

    (This all coming from someone who was once a die hard Republican, too.)

    January 3, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  7. Alan, Bonita Springs, FL

    The joke is that George W. Bush ran on the hopes HE would turn our Supreme Court over to the radical right. In addition to all the other messes he's created that we will be collectively paying for for the next several DECADES, he almost accomplished the goal, unfortunately.

    Read the 400+ posts here. Any that smell of hatred and snideness - it's Republicans using their usual tactics to try desperately to win an election their own choices over the past eight years have surely lost them this time around.

    Hillary isn't my favorite candidate but I have to admit it would sure be a sweet turn-around on all the hateful bashers on the Republican side.

    Rush was wrong again. And again. And again. Get over it.

    January 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. Dee

    If I wasn't already planning to vote for Hillary, this would seal the deal!

    January 3, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. chrissy darden, Harrisburg, PA

    Excellent! I am LOVING it! Go Justice Clinton!!!

    January 3, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  10. Davy Jones

    This is one of the dumber "stories" I've seen on CNN's website. Speculation by conservatives about what Hillary Clinton MIGHT do if elected? All this "story" really is is a mindless repeating of a conservative scare tactic – because if there's one things conservatives fear more than terrorists, it's the prospect of Bill Clinton back in D.C.

    January 3, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. Steven

    This would never get past Congress! Who is suggesting this anyway? A daydream that will never happen!

    January 3, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  12. Jaik , chicago, IL

    that... is the best idea i have heard in awhile. tho if CNN brainwashes everyone into voting for Hillary , it would be best if he waited out her term to keep the checks & balances between branches of government. not that the GOP did that.

    January 3, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  13. Louise

    Bill Clinton would be a great attribute in any position she appoints him to. It would be so refreshing to restore intregrity to America again.. PEACE AND PROSPERITY. I think Richard should have moved to Canada 7 years ago.

    January 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. Bill

    His chances of being nominated to the Court are about as good as mine, and I'm not an attorney.

    His nomination to the Senate would be dead on arrival. You simply can't nominate someone whose state law license was suspended for 5 years and who subsequently resigned from the U.S. Supreme Court bar.

    Let's also remember that a federal position carries with it federal ethics rules on outside income. Being a former president is a lucrative gig. He wouldn't give up the ability to make six-figure speeches for a lifetime seat on the Court.

    P.S. Ah yes, it's not lifetime...the Constitution says it's "during good behavior." How long would that be?

    January 3, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  15. demwit

    His first judgement for us should be on the definition of the word "is".

    January 3, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. Charles141

    this is a joke, right?

    January 3, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. Liz

    In the Clinton dynasty, Bill will be the chief justice.

    What position would Princess Chelsea take?
    It has to be a position in which she doesn't have to answer any questions.

    We Americans just love this prince and princess stuff no matter how much tea we threw into Boston Harbor.

    January 3, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  18. Nicci

    Oh please no!!!!!!!!!

    January 3, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  19. James (Kansas City)

    Sure, there's precedent for a President serving as a justice, but this would come on a scale of nepotism unheard of in this country. This would be practical monarchy if it happened. I hope this country does not let that happen.

    January 3, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  20. Dr. Douglas Noir

    A classic case of social degeneration; the selection of political leaders based off of name recognition and the nomination or appointing of relatives to positions of power. Has history taught us nothing? At this point in time the only thing that can destroy America is itself, from within–and these are the first steps. . .

    January 3, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. M in NYC

    This sort of biased reporting about Hillary, ridiculous assertions based on rumors, only makes me aware of how irrational the case against Hillary is, how much Hillary has to fight against as a woman and how strong she really is. This sort of baldly prejudicial "story" makes me WANT to vote for her. I am undecided so far, I vote on policy not on garbage like this, but I still say - Hillary, stay strong. And CNN, shame on you. Where are your standards? You've lost a reader.

    January 3, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  22. Annie

    This is not news. Smells of Rove.

    January 3, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. Phil Memphis, TN

    i have been posting for weeks about how poor the reporting has been, and how real issues are ignored while we talk about religion, hair, daighters of candidates etc. But this is so blatantly ridiculous Mr. Mears hould be fired.

    He states within his own article that when the subject was brought up he was laughed at:

    "while several laughed at the possibility, none would rule it out completely." Yeah, well I can't rule out a meteor taking out my house tonight but I'm willing to bet (gulp) it doesn't happen.

    He then states : "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.

    So it has zero chance of coming true and everyone laughed at you. where is your story Mr. Mears?

    January 3, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  24. Eric

    Doug Kmiec is well-known as a rabid radical right-winger. HIs only goals here are (1) to see his name in print and (2) to help the radical Republican cause. Anything he says must be viewed through that lens.

    January 3, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  25. Matt

    If America is really dumb enough to put an embarrassment of a failed president's wife into office, why not put him on the supreme court and make a day of it?

    January 3, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
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