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. William Smith

    Will Bill be smoking cigars at the Supreme court???

    Disgusting thought...a man with such poor morals being a justice

    January 3, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. doug

    The sky is falling!!

    January 3, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  3. Steven Mock

    I disagree with even the consideration of Bill Clinton for the Supreme Court. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that the justices of the highest court in the land should not only be above reproach in reputation, but should also know that any form of contact of the genitals of one person by another for the purpose of giving or receiving pleasure is indeed sex. Does Mr. Clinton still assert that he "did not have sex with that woman"?

    January 3, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. Denis, NJ

    Baloney... Not a chance.

    January 3, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  5. Dan

    Bill Clinton? U.S. Supreme Court Justice? He's been impeached and disbarred. I can only imagine the outcry. If the opportunity arose, he would never be appointed. Not in a million years.

    January 3, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  6. Harvey, Tampa, FL

    Anyone notice how CNN's "tone" changes to "upbeat" whenever one of the Clintons is featured in the Ticker? The prospect of having a Clinton back in power just tickles CNN's pickle....

    January 3, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  7. Stephen

    All republicians would fillabuster a Bill Clinton, SC Justice nomination. It also shows where her priorities would be, personal priorities, not the best person for the job.

    January 3, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  8. Roy, Lincoln, NE

    Rather see Bill Clinton as either secretary of state or ambassador to the united nations.

    January 3, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  9. Annnie

    Oh Please! There must be better legal minds to be had out there on both sides of the aisle. Do we really want someone who debates what the definition of 'is' is on our highest court?

    January 3, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. A .Murphy

    I would love to see President Clinton as a Supreme Court Justice. I never thought about the idea. Wow this will certainly change the way I vote. It would be like John and Robert Kennedy all over again.

    January 3, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  11. Gregory G Kelly

    Can a disbarred attorney serve on any court?

    January 3, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  12. Daniel D'Alessandro

    A disbarred attorney is not eligible for appointment to the United States Supreme Court. The appointment of a disbarred attorney to any judicial position should not be heralded by any one including the "distinguished" professors and scholars quoted in the your article.

    January 3, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. Kuenstler

    Sweet, sweet, nepotism.

    January 3, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. Stephen

    fear tactics?? CNN is biased toward Clinton, why would they publish this if it would hurt her?

    January 3, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  15. Jimmy Frank Carter

    It is a fantasy for Bill to be a Justice,I think if Hillary wins Bill will love to be co-President.I hope it will be another 8 years of Clinton the style may change but the same substance.A remote control president is what we will get.

    January 3, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  16. Nicole Price, Dallas Texas

    Birds of a feather...

    January 3, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  17. Vic Novosad, Sugar Land, TX

    I would think that such action would take place during a later phase of Hillary's presidency, as he's too valuable an asset to place required restrictions on him. No matter what anyone says negatively about Bill Clinton, the undisputed fact is that he is respected by all world leaders as well as with people domestically.

    Remember that during his own presidency, he made vast changes for the better including these: 1) Ended the war in Kosovo with the capture of Milosevic and other war criminals; 2) Balanced the budget; 3) Rescued the economy from the preceding Bush I Administration where unemployment was soaring, then took off with Clinton; 4) Overhauled the Federal welfare program, putting recipients to work after participating in training programs; 5) Ongoing State Department negotiations with North Korea successfully causing Korea to discontinue its nuclear weapons program.

    If for no other reason, Hillary Clinton should be elected President to assure the advantages of having such a valuable asset available.

    January 3, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  18. Jeff - Plainfield, IL

    ,,,so how much control of Congress would Dems need to approve this? (and that's only if they vote strictly party-line). I'm much more Democrat than Republican, but I'm viewing this story as harmful to Hillary. Rile-up-the-base political candy for the Republicans and maybe more subtly other Dem candidates.

    I'm an Obama Dem in the primary, and I believe this story hurts Clinton. Yes, they are beloved (and hated) by many, but they aren't the Kennedy's. People are not begging to have them dynastically shape the nation.

    January 3, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. RF, Hillsborough, NJ

    What a great day it would be for the USA!

    January 3, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  20. ann

    Your time if up moron. Go back to little town Arkansa and give others a chance!

    January 3, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. Karen

    Talk of power greed!

    January 3, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  22. Brian

    I am not ready to vote for people who feel it is about "them'. It is just not right!

    January 3, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  23. WIlly

    Bill Clinton for the Supreme Court to the Arkansas Trailer Park, YES

    January 3, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  24. Ken, O Fallon, MO

    He did not get disbarred!

    January 3, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  25. Bob

    Past President or not, it's pretty difficult for a disbarred lawyer to lay claim to a Supreme Court seat.

    January 3, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
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