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. Walt, Belton, TX

    Just what the legal system needs, a felon on the Supreme Court! God help us! God help our system of Justice. If you've got money, you've got a judge. Judge Slick Willie, that is.................

    January 3, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. James, Iowa

    Sandy Wilcox, FL,

    If CNN were pro-Hillary, why would it post this news? BTW, Republicans like yourself have no business telling us (democrats) we shouldn't be voting for Hillary. Obviously, the Republicans are afraid of her and that is another reason for us democrats to support her.

    Go back to your Republican blogs.

    January 3, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  3. Sam

    Ok, let me get this straight: A woman elected President would appoint her husband – who had affairs behind her back, was impeached, and lied to a grand jury – to the position of Supreme Court Justice? That's the most absurd idea of the New Year, and we've only just begun.

    January 3, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. Robin

    Oh Dear God, I hope not!

    January 3, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  5. Scott from Freehold

    Simply nothing more then primary chatter. The Supreme Court and Bill Clinton are not a good match at all. The article cites some of the reasons why.

    January 3, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  6. DD

    I don't think Bill would want that position for many of the reasons already expressed, no spotlight, also, I don't think he would want to take on a lifetime job. I see Bill doing something big on the international arena, e.g., the highest position attainable by a non-European within the European Community. I also think his history would make it very difficult to justify his appointment. However, I do see the position being very interesting to Hilary - when the Chief Justice spot is open, of couse - at some point.

    January 3, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  7. Steven

    The Supreme Court is not sexy enough for Bill. If Hillary is elected, he's going to be the Secretary of State.

    January 3, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. Dave in Texas

    That's an awesome concept!

    If anything can stand in the way of the Catholic fascist* majority on the SCOTUS is a liberal with star power. Bill Clinton will be able to expose Scalia's hypocrisy and fraudulent "knowledge" of the Constitution and what the framers really thought, Thomas' incompetence and maybe revisit his sexual harrassment past, and Alito's and Roberts' tendency towards authoritarianism. He might also be able to charm Kennedy into voting correctly from time to time.

    For those who curse Clinton: what didn't you like about peace and prosperity? Did you really mind that the US was the most admired and respected country in the world? Or did he use too many big words for you? Do you resent people that speak in full sentences?

    *Fascism is authoritarianism marked with hyper-nationalism (which they call patriotism) and a close relationship between the state and business interests.

    January 3, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. forastrongeramerica

    This is an obvious ploy by conservatives to attempt to derail Hillary's campaign by amplifying their fear of liberals and to create more divide in this country. It does not smell right to me, it is dirty political trick. Give me a break! Notice the speculation started from a conservative law professor (not from Hillary herself) and spinned by all conservatives including media. Shame on your conservatives, this is not objective politics this country deserves.

    January 3, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. cureholder

    A few facts:

    Bill Clinton was disbarred in Arkansa in 2001 for a period of five years (and fined $25,000). This disbarment ended in January 2006, but it is unclear whether he filed for reinstatement.

    Bill Clinton was suspended from the Supreme Court bar in 2001, and given 40 days to explain to the Court why he should not be permanently disbarred. (Supreme Court bar suspensions of this type are virtually always followed by permanent disbarment.) Bill Clinton chose to resign from the Supreme Court bar on November 7, 2001 rather than argue his case.

    January 3, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. James, Mountain View, CA

    What a hit piece on Hillary Clinton- reporting an unsubstantiated rumor on the day of the Iowa caucus! Isn't it wonderful how news organizations have stopped bothering to actually investigate world events and instead report whatever rumors local political operatives pass on? I'm typically a big fan of CNN, but this 'article' is an embarrassment.

    January 3, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. joe Lol

    These coments from NY times readers!!!!!!!!! Are you people for real?????????


    January 3, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. Mike, Fredericksburg VA

    A second comment relative to other wondering if Clinton can be nominated and serve as Supreme Court justice due to his disbarment: Yes, he can. There appears to be no requirement, Constitutional or otherwise, that a Supreme Court justice be a lawyer.
    Then again, why should anyone have relevant experience for a job they are applying for; just look at the happy bunch of experienced clowns we have to select from.

    January 3, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. Greg, Phoenix, AZ

    Dear God, could you imagine that confirmation hearing?

    January 3, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. kt

    A President may nominate any person to the Supreme Court. That person need not be a lawyer at all, let alone a practicing one. Thus, a state's earlier decision to revoke that person's license to practice (i.e. – disbar him) has no bearing on his eligibility to serve on the court.

    January 3, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. Cody Harding

    I don't mind the Clintons, but what are his qualifications? I would think that, to be nominated, you would at least need to be qualified for the job. Then again, Mukaskey, Bolton, Gonzales, Libby, DeLay...Maybe not.

    Besides, It is a speculation amongst the various Bar Associations and legal circles in the US. Nowhere in the article does it state that anyone in the Clinton Camp has even mentioned this possibility, let alone condone it.

    Advisor? likely.
    Ambassador? maybe.
    Judge? Kinda a long shot.

    January 3, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. John

    Didn't Bill Clinton lie? Wow – now THERE is a decisive schism!! Let's see, appointing Bill Clinton to the VERY court which annointed their own "savior" King George the First, and his Dick in waiting! Hmm – gee, no LIES anyway in this presidency ... weapons of mass destruction... Iraq was the center of the 9/11 plot... Pakistan and Musharaff are our strong ally... Putin is an honorable man...
    Haliburton... waterboarding... and, AND (drum-roll PLEASE!!!) - missing and erased tapes!!! Richard Nixon reincarnate!!

    January 3, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. chris cbus

    this is absolutely ridiculous. it's rumor mill. well, not even rumor mill cause i'm guessing 99% of the people reading this have never, ever heard bill's name tossed around as a possible future justice.

    if it's not news and has never been reported or suggested in political/legal circles before, then what's the point of this "story"?

    there has to be a motivation here people.

    and cnn.. i'm very disappointed in you.

    January 3, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    This website has become nothing more than a tabloid for political celebrities.

    Anyone with any knowledge of government or law knows that Bill Clinton (regardless of your view on him) is in no way qualified to be a justice. I'm sure Bill and Hillary Clinton know this themselves and Hillary is certainly smart enough to never nominate him.

    The comments about this being a "rove-inspired" rumor and an attempt to seal Hillary's loss in Iowa are dead on.

    Shame on you CNN.

    January 3, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. Wendy, Ohio

    I am dismayed that CNN has posted this piece of propaganda disguised as a "news" item.

    I have always disagreed with anyone who said "CNN is just like FOX News anymore."

    I will no longer argue.

    January 3, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. kevin

    ...and we wonder why terrorists/extremists and most people abroad despise us. It's this kind of stuff. This, my friends, is a form of political extremism...no different than strapping a bomb to oneself. When will we wake up and see that we are being fooled, lied to and manipulated. Our voices need to be heard...and the only way for that to happen is to NOT VOTE...AT ALL.

    The only thing worse than an instant apocolypse, is this slow-steady decline we are now on...go ahead America, vote another crook in the White House. Every one of these candidates, besides the True Libertarian, is going to drive us straight into the streets...poor and hungry. Soilent Green.

    January 3, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. IndependentAmerican

    First this sounds suspiciously like scare tactics to encourage evangelists to stop asking the tough questions and recreate the hysteria. If the evangelists get fooled again shame on them.

    As for the people who said Bill needed to be in prison – the real person who needs to be in prison is the current imcumbent of the White House. His lies have directly caused the deaths of thousands of Americans, tens if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, blown off the budget surplus, condemned us into a monumental national debt all on the basis of lies. If that is not jail worthy what is? If you cant see that you are blind or stupid or both.

    January 3, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. tr88

    His only chance would be if McCain nominates him, which is unlikely, but he will be the next President.

    January 3, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. Cindy

    How sad that the press can float any idea and many of us run toward the gates to either denouce or applaud it. Wake up people - or should I say PUPPETS!!

    January 3, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. james smithington

    This kind of conservative propaganda helps to invigorate anti-Clinton voters and keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.

    January 3, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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