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. cureholder

    First and foremost, no, being disbarred does not prevent someone from being appointed to the Supreme Court. The Constitution lists no qualifications for the job. The only criteria, therefore, are the willingness of the President to nominate that person and the willingness of 51 Senators (or 50 Senators plus the Vice President) to vote to confirm.

    Second, Bill Clinton cannot be nominated to be Chief Justice of the United States (that's the title, not Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) because John Roberts, Jr., already holds that job and cannot be replaced unless he dies, resigns, retires, or is impeached.

    Third, Bill Clinton can be nominated to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court if a vacancy occurs.

    Fourth, his moral standing aside, does anyone really believe that Bill Clinton is qualified to sits on the nation's highest court and interpret the Constitution? This is a man who did not know, during his time as President, that the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over conflicts between states. There are simply many people much more qualified for this job, and, whether you love Bill Clinton or hate him politically and personally, this job is too important to give to someone with absolutely no experience or qualification for it when there are others far more qualified.

    Then again, if this country were capable of making distinctions between qualified and completely and utterly unqualified, this discussion wouldn't be occurring, because no one would take Hillary Clinton seriously as a candidate for the presidency, a job for which she has absolutely no qualifications or experience other than having been married to a two-term President.

    January 3, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. Brian Nancoo - Trinidad

    It is so intriguing to see so many disguised attacks on Senator Clinton's presidential bid. Anyone who follows politics knows that the easiest way to arouse the ire of the anti-Clinton crowd is to point out how either Bill or Hillary or both would probably benefit from either's political success.Please,stop with these closeted attacks.You want to get into the fight,do it the right way,campaign for somebody and put your reputation on the line.

    January 3, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. James, Iowa

    Judge Learned Hand,

    If you were an attorney, you would be smart enough to know that this "news" is no more than a rumor started by the GOP to scare voters into voting against HIllary. I am surprised that CNN posted this crap.

    January 3, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. A. Harrison, Atlanta GA

    Check wikipedia.org. He was disbarred for only 5 years and ordered to pay a fine in Arkansas.

    January 3, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |


    January 3, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  6. Ellen

    Honoring a conservative's speculation about a Clinton appointment to the Supreme with a prominent place on your Web site when there's absolutely no substantiation is ludicrous. It's not NEWS, it's merely a scare tactic by conservatives. If I speculate that Mitt Romney would appoint his wife to a cabinet position, would you run that as well?

    January 3, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. Stella Sharp, Bridgeton, NJ 08302

    Bill Clinton will be an asset to whatever position assigned. He is considerate,
    knowledgeable, and knows what is expected of him. Hillary will be a great
    president......go girl!

    January 3, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Greg M.

    You heard it here first: if a Republican is elected in 2008, George W. Bush be the next person appointed to the Supreme Court.

    January 3, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. Sarah, Kansas City, MO

    Bill Clinton has not been disbarred. I wonder where that rumor got started (republicans?). I think this a republican scare tactic. They are famous for their mis-information and smear campaigns. He would probably be a better justice then some of the ones already there, for example, Clarence Thomas (speaking of sexual problems with female employees).

    By the way, I do not believe that you have to have a law degree to be appointed to the Supreme Court. It certainly helps though.

    January 3, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. John Chamberlain, SD

    Bill would bring a sensible legal interpretation to the Supreme Court. The current seated Supreme Court Justices need a moderate thinking mind to "lead" their decisions away from conservative ideals that haven't done modern Americans any good. Bill would slice the monkey (aka conservative religious right) from the backs of rational thinking Americans. First lets get Hillary in the White House, that's when/where better days for Americans will begin.

    January 3, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  11. James, Iowa

    Stephen, this is indeed fear tactics. Who said CNN was biased toward Clinton? All the media is unfairly targeting Hillary and rooting for Obama.

    January 3, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  12. Tim

    Nothing in the Constitution prevents a disbarred attorney from becoming a Justice of the Supreme Court. In fact, a nominee doesn't even have to be a lawyer, or have gone to law school. The President can nominate whomever he (or she) sees fit.

    Be that as it may, it would be extremely unwise politically to nominate someone without the proper credentials. The nomination and appointment of justices to the Supreme Court has become such a political mess that it would be very unlikely that a disbarred attorney (even Bill Clinton) would pass muster in the Senate and get confirmed.

    January 3, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. Splinter, Iowa

    Bill Cinton and his wife are so sickeningly POWER HUNGRY.

    They should move aside gracefully for others to have a chance.

    Go away! Get out!

    January 3, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. k david, NH

    I cannot belive CNN a "well respected media" would post this kind of garbage on the day of the iowa caucus. Shame on you. This is so obviously designed to bring down the 1st woman who has a chance of becoming the president of this country.
    This kind of Rove/Novak/Chrismathews/Hannity/Limbuagh kind of tactics on the morning of the cacuses I cannot beleive this. You know you are going to deliberately hurt Hillary Rodham Clinton tonight and help out Barack Hussein Obama by this unwarranted posting and bring out the hIllary/clinton haters and gossip mongers by the thousands to this site by doing this. It is one thing if Hillary even said something even close to this, she never said anything like this and yet you CNN post this based on a "well respected right wing conservative"???
    here is your journalistic integrity...and please do not tell you are just doing your job by reporting this beacuse that is not true!

    January 3, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  15. Thomas

    If Hillary gets the job you will see all kinds of crazy appointments. Maybe Sandy "I've got classified documents down my pants" Berger for defense secretary. He's already a hired consultant on her campaign.

    January 3, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  16. Rich In Seattle

    The Republicans fear Hillary and Bill so much that I find it odd that this story was released today of all days. My guess is that did this so they don't have to go up against her. It's not even really a story with any credibility or facts. I mean who is this guy making this prediction? It is only being released to hurt Hillary. Why the hell would CNN put this out there like that? REPORT NEWS NOT GOSSIP!!!

    January 3, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  17. Ben

    *sigh* I have no intention of voting for Hilary, but I find it a little more than ironic that this kind of "news" is reported on the day the caucuses start voting. Shame on CNN for "reporting" such an obvious smear campaign, leave the instigating to the politicians, your job is to report credible and factual NEWS.

    January 3, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  18. Mike, Fredericksburg VA

    EXCELLENT! Theft, graft, perjury would become legal with Bill's appointment to the US Supreme Court! Three cheers: huzzah! huzzah! huzzah!
    The Democratic Party: The party of the "people; the party with a vision; the party for change."
    I wonder if a legal precedent exists that can force Clinton to delete his middle name: Jefferson.

    January 3, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. Bukky, Balt MD

    "conservative law professor has openly predicted" Ummm being that today is the day of the IOWA caucus... it sounds like the repubs are trying to get out the vote.

    1) you dont even have to go to Law School to be a Justice
    2) Bill would make a better justice than scalia, roberts, thomas or alito.
    3) Even if he was nominated he'd still have to be Approved by congress

    January 3, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. Shannon

    My reaction?

    I laughed hysterically.

    And this coming from someone who likes Bill Clinton (although there is no way in h*** I would ever vote for Hilary ... not because I don't like her, simply because I believe she would be far too devisive and I've had enough of that since 2000 to last me a lifetime).

    I don't know if this is even possible, but the bottom line is that it shouldn't be. IMO, the first spouse shouldn't be anything other than exactly that ... the first spouse.

    However, I would not have a problem with another President nominating him (that is if it is even possible and I'm not sure that it is given that several people have said that they thought he was disbarred).

    January 3, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  21. Ray, Rochester


    Only a Clinton would name another Clinton to the Supreme Court after he had lost his license to practice law for lying under oath!

    Any Hillary lover needs to have his/her head examined.

    January 3, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. Zachary M vL

    The constitution does not supply qualifications for the post, so as for the question regarding his being disbarred...I am pretty sure that it is irrelevant to being nominated and/or assuming the post. This is all a crock anyway, it's based entirely off vague speculation.

    January 3, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. William, Atlanta

    What stupid reporting, CNN. This is ridiculous. Silly rumors like this fly around DC like moths. No one with any sense pays them any attention.

    January 3, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  24. Dave

    Go Billy Boy

    January 3, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  25. Jeff

    Anyone who believes this would happen is either an idiot or a republican, oh wait, the ARE one and the same aren't they. Typical conservative rumor mongering to incite the fence riders to vote GOP.

    January 3, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
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