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. jonnie daugherty

    I think this is a cheap shot. Knock it off and let the woman, who is a well deserving and qualified candidate alone.

    January 3, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  2. John R

    Vic, buddy, you are rading too many articale from CNN
    He did not end the war in Kosovo – read the papers, they are still fighting and we still have folks stuck there
    He balanced the budget based on his 93 budget which was written by Republicans and he had to go with since he was already considered a lame duck
    He severely damaged the economy – the last 5 quarters he was in office were recessionary
    The "overhaul" of the welfare program was almost a mirror iamge of what Thompson (Republican) had established in Wisconsin.
    His negotiation with N Korea were an embarrasement since N Korea simply ignored the agreements they made with him
    World leaders like him since they could roll right over him – he was a disaster!

    January 3, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  3. Big Hoss

    Are their enough closets and interns at the Supreme Court for Mr. Clinton?

    January 3, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. fm

    Why not? A military deserter became President and Commander-In-Chief of our armed forces. Supreme Court justice. Has a nice ring to it. Nice indeed...

    January 3, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  5. T.J. Kaluza

    The fact that this was even posted on CNN is preposterous, but not really a surprise given what is seen here.

    January 3, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  6. Bob Smith

    I can't believe that CNN would stoop to tossing out planted garbage like this on an election day.

    You clearly like to help those stratgists who love to toss out garbage on election day that cannot possibly be responded to.

    Did you want to headline a story of Romney's Bain mandating jobs to China, Obama's drug use, Huckaby inflaming the middle east with images of the crusades?

    Stick to real journalism on election days.

    January 3, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. P.Ogo

    I would be far more worried if say someone like Mcain would appoint like pro immagrint type like Sen. Kyle of Arizona or maybe Huckabee sending some one like Pat Robertson. This article is pure baloney and really suspect in its timing and really is not worthy of this "news organazation. When you smell a shunk you know its a skunk. come on boys you really seem desperate with this story.

    January 3, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. Josh Maloney, Oakland, CA

    Bill Clinton would rock as a Supreme Court Justice. I love the uninformed comments above. Its so typcial Clinton bashing.

    January 3, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  9. Joe, Wilmington DE

    You've got to be kidding. Censure, impeachment, perjury - a fine resume for a potential supreme court justice. When will these people just go away?

    January 3, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. E. C., Houston, Texas


    January 3, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. Hazel

    How can even be a topic – The man was found guilty of perjury at the highest level – Not to mention – HE WAS IMPEACHED BY THE HOUSE OF REP – This family just loves finding ways to milk the American taxpayers money.

    January 3, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  12. Terry

    He had sex with that woman, he lied about it. Whatever he did under the table literally, that don't change the fact that he was a good president, especially comparing to the one we have right now. If the husband had done some good work, why wouldn't the wife? He is the comforting factor for many to vote for Hillary Clinton. Had he campaigned for Gore 8 years ago, this country wouldn't be down the toilet!

    January 3, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. Nate

    This just allows the Executive branch the power to create law with the Judicial Branch. Weren't the three branches created seperately to eliminate these types of things from happening?

    Wasn't he disbarred?

    People – stop and listen to what Hillary's really saying...nothing!

    Ron Paul '08

    January 3, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  14. Jim

    Even if it were feasible, I doubt that Clinton would want to take orders from John Roberts.

    January 3, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  15. Kimberli

    Unfortunately, I have been unable to verify that disbarrment precludes anyone from serving on the US Supreme Court. As far as I can tell, it is purely up to the sitting president to determine if a person is qualified. All nominees have to be confirmed by the Senate. I would hope that his disbarment would be a point of consideration during a confirmation hearing, but you just never know. It's a bit too early to be considering this now anyways. She hasn't won the nomination of her party for the general election, she hasn't won the general election, and perhaps most importantly – there is no vacancy on the Supreme Court. There are a lot things that have to happen in order for this to become a reality and it's still early in the game.

    January 3, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  16. James, Iowa

    I agree with Kiera. This sounds like a whisper instigated by Rove or Novak. It is amazing how mean-spirited Hillary's opponents can be.

    I was leaning toward Obama but these dirty tricks by the GOP make me side with Hillary. Hillary '08.

    January 3, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  17. Someone who's actually read the Constitution

    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).

    So, yes, a disbarred attorney can be a federal judge.

    Personal opinion: I'm fine with that. I don't believe people should be handed a scarlet letter for life and disbarment was way too harsh of a penalty. A short suspension of the Supreme Court license would have sufficed. Clinton was the victim of a political witchhunt, so I'm very willing to forgive, just as I think the U.S. criminal code should be a bit more forgiving at times, but that's a different topic with a lot of angles.

    January 3, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  18. just the facts

    1) Clinton was never disbarred – his license was suspended for 5 years. Big difference people. Try getting your facts straight before you post, ok ?

    2) Technically, you do not have to be a lawyer to be a US supreme court justice. So, even if he were disbarred, he could still be appointed.

    January 3, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  19. dan

    Another Republican dirty tricks maneuver- don't be naive and fall for this bait!!!

    January 3, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  20. jas

    What a bunch of crap. CNN is only reporting this to be provocative. What a bunch of crap. Now why don't they report on Pat Robertson's predictions for a Clinton presidency?

    January 3, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  21. Bob in Va.

    This is nothing but a transparent, rightwing scare tactic. Hillary C must really petrify these bozos.

    January 3, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  22. Andrew


    January 3, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  23. Brian

    First case will be "People v Common Usage" to finally determine what the definition of "is" is.

    January 3, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  24. Earl Warren

    Wasn't he disbarred? Or at least had to surrender his law license?

    How could he possibly qualify??

    God help us.

    January 3, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  25. Bonnie

    As appealing an idea as I think that may be, seriously, isn't this just a rabid Republican shouting out in an effort to damage Hillary's campaign?

    January 3, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22