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. Mindy Chatsworth, California

    I think this whole story is just pure nonsense. Forgetting about the usual arguments that many have put forth here already, Bill Clinton is a politician first, last and always. He is an extremely intelligent man who has a unique ability to connect with people, something his wife is sorely lacking. But I can't imagine him as a Supreme Court justice. I think he likes being in the public eye and pressing the flesh. You can see it as he campaigns for his wife. He lives for this kind of thing. I don't think he would be well suited to the Supreme Court.

    The more relevant question is, who on earth dreamed up this story in the first place? It sounds like something that Karl Rove and his cronies would think up to scare people out of voting for Hillary. I guess this is a preview of coming attractions in the general election if Hillary gets the nomination.

    January 3, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. chris parent

    It'll be interesting anyway, Bill will be used by whichever democrat wins this one. Wasn't there anther president who served as a supreme court justice (thanks to Neil Young on that one)
    Hillary is a machine gobbling up everything in sight, her people have figured out how to win this thing and she will. Obama is already thinking about running 8 years from now that should tell us somthing.
    Also if Clarence Thomas can serve then William Clinton is moral enough to serve aswell. Bill is to young and to good of an american asset not to be used. Worldwide we don't really give a lick about his "scandelous" past.

    January 3, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  3. Marilyn - KCMO

    I really thought CNN had more integrity than to publish such fear mongering speculation. Sounds more like FOX news.

    January 3, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. Rosa Birmingham, AL

    I think Bill would make a great justice. Anyone Hillary would appoint would be better than anyone any of the Republican candidate would appoint and far better than the last two bozos.

    I don't care who wins the primary just as long as the Repubs don't win the general election. WE CANNOT take four more years!!

    January 3, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  5. Potter Stewart

    The only requirement in the Constitution for Supreme Court Justices is that they be appointed by the President and approved by 2/3 of the Senate. It is not even a legal requirement that a justice be a college graduate, much less a law school graduate, as we have had several justices that have had neither. Clinton was not disbarred, he voluntarily surrendered his license for a period of 5 years and either has gotten it back, or will be getting it back, there is a BIG difference between the two situations.

    January 3, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  6. Dave Diamond, Mont Vernon, NH

    I was a HUGE supporter of President Clinton and would love to see him on the Supreme Court.

    But NOT if it means that Senator Clinton would have to be elected president first - NO WAY!

    January 3, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  7. s lenon

    First, Huckabee's campaign finesses CNN into showing a campaign ad that they probably couldn't afford to run by showing it at a press conference while claiming they aren't going to use it.

    Now someone at Pepperdine has maneuvered CNN into spreading an unsubstantiated rumor designed to resurrect the Clinton impeachement.

    You are a news agency. Broadcast news, not rumor. Stop letting your air time be used for the purposes of the various campaigns. If they want to run smear ads, make them pay for the air time and accept the responsibility for them.

    January 3, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. wayne

    if Hillary gets into office, Bill will be the least of our problems

    January 3, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  9. James, Iowa


    I couldn't agree with you more. Why is CNN posting this right-wing crap? Wake up CNN and remove this piece immediately or you will lose your credibility.

    January 3, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  10. C, Norfolk, VA

    "The Republicans fear Hillary and Bill so much..."


    You got to be kidding!! "Fear" is NOT the emotion that comes to mind when it comes to the Clintons. "Nauseated" seems more fitting.

    January 3, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    Quit blaming the Republicans you sheep, this article was from December 15th in the Wall street journal and CNN CHOSE TO POST IT TODAY.

    Kmiec has said nothing but good things about Bill Clinton and is just stating what has been discussed in many circles for a few years when it was first thrown out there that Hillarity would run for President.

    His law license was taken away, but the suspension ENDED in 2006, and for the rest of you enlightened progressives who obviously can't accomplish anything unless IT IS GIVEN to you, HE IS ELIGIBLE to be an associate justice.

    "She" could only nominate him for Chief Justice if they "Fostered" or "Willeyed" Roberts.

    Even as a frequent Clinton basher, I do see a useful role for him NO MATTER who the next President is, as a goodwill ambasador of some type.

    He has the gift of gab and is a first class Bulls&&&&er, he can point his finger and lie with the best of them unlike this dolt in office who can't complete a sentence if you spot him the subject and predicate.

    Ambasadors need to be like salesman and yes, Bill Clinton would do GREAT in that role.

    January 3, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. jim

    rich, it is not the 'pubs that fear bill and hill. her negatives are sky high making her easy to defeat. she is not genuine and wants to be whatever you want her to be. people also remember billy dale, vince foster, rose law firm, etc. It is the backers of obama that are out to get her.

    January 3, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  13. David, Gilbert Arizona

    There is no Constitutional requirement for a person to be a Supreme Court Justice. Theoretically anyone can be nominated by the president and confirmed by the senate.

    Having said that I doubt very highly the Senate Judiciary Committee would confirm the nomination of Bill Clinton.

    January 3, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  14. Donald Douglas

    I was under the impression that he was disbarred for lying to congress. A perjurer would not be a good choice for supreme court.

    January 3, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  15. Daniel J. Baranuk; North Royalton, Ohio

    I thought he was disbarred based on his perjury conviction . If so, how could he sit as a Supreme Court Justice?

    January 3, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  16. Xandria

    The Senate would still have to confirm any appointee. This is a paranioid scare tactic. The 1990s were good times. Bill Clinton was a much better President than either Bush. George W. got away with placing white men on the Supreme Court. Harriet Miers was a bait-and-switch.

    January 3, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  17. BCNU purple state, usa

    Yeah right, and Barry Bonds should be the next commissioner of baseball and Michael Vick should be next in line for Roger Goodell's spot.

    January 3, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. Rosa

    Seriously??? Are you really going to post this as news? Some Pepperdine professor says this and its news? Waste of space....

    January 3, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  19. Robert

    Why would you run a story like this on Election Day?
    Is this what we are going to get from CNN just as people go to polls to vote on real issues and opinions.
    We might as well let Rupert Murdoch fabricate the issues on Election Day.
    Glad to know Swift Boat ambushing is on yourt agenda this year.
    Can't wait to see what you do on New Hampshire Primary Day

    January 3, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. AJ, IL

    Talk about issuing a rally cry to all Republicans!

    January 3, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  21. Joelle Didelot, Milwaukee, WI

    The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton NEVER was DISBARRED!

    I personally think he would be a refreshing and elegant change to the current Supreme Court... even though we all KNOW it will never happen.

    Furthermore, if any of you over-emotional, intellectual cretins responding on this blog actually think that none of the current Supreme Court Justices have never lied, cheated on their wives or been engaged in shady deals, you simply have to be the most naive electorate on the planet!

    [Being CAUGHT and PROSECUTED is just as bad as having ALL your MISDEEDS covered up by fellow judges and people in high power!]

    You simply don't get to high positions of power in the Good Old USA without having a lot of friends in powerful positions to cover your BUTT for all your past "errors in judgement."!

    January 3, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  22. Pat Huntington NY

    You don't have to be a lawyer to be on the Supreme Court, or have a law degree for that matter. So, it doesn't matter if Bill was disbarred, and in any event, I don't think he ever was disbarred. I think it would be a great service for this nation if any future Democratic President nominates him the Supreme Court. Remember, he's considered brilliant, extremely well educated, and he's more qualified than all the schm*cks Bush has put on the bench.

    January 3, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |

    Finally a normal guy in the Supreme Court . Not so weltfremd, but connected to the world. It is now a bunch of fossiles with weird ideas. This fundamentalistic country, blaming the whole world for being fundamentalistic needs persons with common sense. Church and State should be seperated please!

    The razzia against Clinton during his presidency was disgusting and showed nothing of christianity. On the contrary. That shows hoe hypocrite this country is...

    January 3, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  24. Mike, Houston, TX

    You're joking. Bill was DISBARRED in Arkansas. There is no end to their shame.

    January 3, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  25. Fred

    Regardless of whether this rumor is true or not, it certainly underscores the fact that Bill will be prominent in American politics if Hillary is elected president.

    And, if he is true to form, regardless of what position (whether formal or informal), he will serve to be a continuing embarrassment to our nation.

    January 3, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
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