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. Chris S - Gerald, MO

    I echo Dave in Atlanta, GA's comment, the last I heard he was disbarred from practicing law. He'd be a better Secretary of State under Edwards or any other candidate for that matter. That is his strength and greatest asset he could bring to any administration should he be offered a position.

    January 3, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. Jim G

    So, I suppose we're going to pick up "news" stories from every politically connected rumor-mill out there? I don't care if it's a Republican or a Democrat, this kind of speculation, when repeated by multiple news sources, can take on a life of its own. How did CNN come across this professor? Did she send out a press release stating her thoughts? Editors at CNN don't have to be geniuses to know how a thought like this, when spread, will affect the large, anti-Clinton, Republican voting block. You are feeding the propaganda.

    January 3, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. pam Eugene OR

    God save us!
    Yet another reason NOT to vote for Billary! This is just outrageous.

    January 3, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. Bian

    This guy with his grey hair should take a rest in littletown Ark. That way we will not have to worry what we are worried about him in the white house right now!

    January 3, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  5. Anthony

    People–this whole article is based on speculation by a completely unknown law professor at an extremely conservative law school where Ken Starr sits as the dean. Wake up! There is no way Hillary would ever appoint Bill to the Supreme Court, for so many reasons. Why does the unsupportable speculation from a law professor "raise the your blood temp" or incite anger toward the Clintons??

    January 3, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. debchuck

    Bill Clinton on the Supreme Court??

    What's the big deal. It sounds almost as implausible as George W. as president!!!!!!!!!

    We COULD do worse than Bill. We could get George Bush and all of us go down the tubes together.

    January 3, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. LarryMo

    Why is CNN even posting this rumor?

    I expect journalism from journalists, and tabloid nonsense from tabloid outlets.

    I guess CNNis just a tabloid outlet these days.

    As for Bill being on the S.C. – It is already packed with political hacks who intervened to prevent a State from deciding its own voting results...to prevent GWB from being "damaged" by a recount.

    Bill would just be another sleazy politician on the bench...no big deal.

    January 3, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  8. Ryan

    Disbarred for "only" 5 years and paid a fine.
    Look kids, you too can cheat on your spouse, lie to America, and still get appointed to the high court.

    January 3, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. Nick

    Yep. Must be a republican scare tactic...and I'm sure that's why CNN ran it since we all know CNN leans so far to the right! :-\

    January 3, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  10. Duncan, Richmond, VA

    This is like Rudi saying that the Terrorists are coming to get you... lock up your babies because your all doomed, doomed I say... unless you vote for me.

    January 3, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  11. karen

    Doesn't Bill have a handsome retirement package he can take?

    January 3, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Can someone, who has been disbarred from his states legal body, serve on the U.S. Supreme Court? Not to mention, could Mr. Clinton (or the presumed Mrs. Clinton administration) withstand bi-partisan Senate scrutiny and approval?

    January 3, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. S., Raleigh, NC

    I guess not many people are realizing that this rumor is being spread by a conservative law professor who worked for Regan as well as Bush 41. How low do you have to be to spread such a rumor? Pathetic indeed!

    January 3, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. Sandy Wilcox, FL

    This message is for CNN.

    Political Science 101: Does the media mirror or mold the news?

    CNN obviously answered this question. CNN is so pro-Hillary, it is disgusting. The media is suppose to serve as a neutral outlet for news, not trying to persuade readers to vote for Hillary. From the obvious to the subtle pro-Hillary messages. I am disappointed in CNN.

    Democrats, do not feel that you owe Hillary anything. She is not electable. Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike do not like or trust her.

    January 3, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. Les

    Bill Clinton cannot be appointed in the US Supreme Court, he is DISBARRED.

    But the ignorant out there coming by the truckloads believe it can happen.

    January 3, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  16. john

    wasn't Clinton Disbarred? How could he become a Judge?

    January 3, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. Robb, New York

    You see? Do you see this, Democrats? Can you imagine what the Republicans are thinking seeing the man they impeached for alleged perjury charges as a possible Supreme Court Justice appointed by his wife? There's the Republican nominee's propaganda right there. They don't have to spend a dime on campaign pamphlets or 30-second tv spots; Hillary's doing enough on her own. Stop her now, Democrats, before it's too late. If she wins the nomination, she'll lose the presidency. You can write it down.

    January 3, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. James, Virginia Beach, VA

    Ooooh......be afraid ............be very afraid.
    What could be scaryier on the Supreme Court than an angry and arrogant Scalia promoting his self-righteous backward religious idealogy?!
    Why would Bill Clinton want to be on the Supreme Court? He has it made running around the world doing what ever he wants to do with rock star appeal. Except of course in the neo-con realm, but I'm sure he doesn't mind avoiding the dark caves where they deal from.

    January 3, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Ridiculous! Clinton not only lost his Arkansas law license for five years, he only avoided being denied the privilege of arguing before the Supreme Court by resigning it.

    January 3, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  20. ohcrap

    Nice timely article CNN. The fact that a nomination would NEVER happen has not stopped the publishing of it today, of all days. So much for the famed "liberal bias" in media.

    January 3, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  21. Darth Vadik, Diamond Bar CA

    Did anybody confirm this story, or is this a "OCTOBER SURPRISE" just in time for the caucuses?

    Something is fishy here

    January 3, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  22. Joshua

    An impeach president on the Supreme Court? Lets just put W on it if we want the country to really screwed up.

    January 3, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  23. Phil

    How can you people even print such non sense. A suprem court nominee who has been disbarred? You truly are the Clinton News Network.

    January 3, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  24. David, Cleveland, Ohio

    The overriding issue with Bill Clinton getting a nomination that every one seems to miss is his considerable lack of time on the judicial bench. Regardless of the fact that he is/was a lawyer, he has never served as a judge, etc., one who might issue decisions based upon the arguments presented and the interpretation of the law. Frankly, his legal experience is probably overshadowed by almost any ambulance chaser you could find in the phone book.

    Ultimately, it would never happen, esp since Hillary will not get the Democratic nomination.

    January 3, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  25. Sven

    Wasn't Billy Boy DISBARRED after his impeachment and subsequent PERJURY CONVICTION? He can't uphold a law.

    January 3, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
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