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. Surrealist, Fort Myers

    What a hoot that would be!!!

    This sounds like another strong reason–I'm voting for Edwards.

    Just imagine the GOP's reaction if he were appointed to the Supreme Court!!

    I say leave well enough alone. Let's put Hillary back in the Senate and Bill back at his foundation. Let's elect John Edwards and start some NEW histroy!!

    January 3, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. Terry W. Jones

    You don'y have to be a licenced attorney to serve on the Supreme Court? Bill was disbarred and lost his license for perjury.

    January 3, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. Pat

    Im disappointed in CNN for reporting a rumor from a conservative lawyer on the first day people will be going to the polls. Not a bit of fact...only rumor. This is how the republicans "swift-boated" John Kerry last time. And for the record, Clinton was suspended from practicing law in Arkansas for five years as part of a plea agreement to avoid perjury charges. He resigned from the bar of the Supreme Court to avoid being disbarred, which happens when lawyers lose their license (even if suspended). And for all those who bash him for lying....he did a great job nationally and internationally. Many suggest the current administration doesn't lie...do I have to remind you of those lies which were of greater magnitude...weapon's of mass destruction, which caused needless loss of american lives?

    January 3, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. Chris, Washington, D.C.

    Only a handful of posters above have the right idea. This isn't a news story- this is whispers and rumors based on something that could theoretically be done. I might as well write an article saying "Maybe Mike Huckabee will name Chuck Norris for his VP. It could happen."

    January 3, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. Eric, South Tejas

    It seems an exercise in poor form and bad taste to nominate an impeached president and disbarred lawyer to the high court. Then again, it requires a moral compass and sense of decency to actually see that... qualities the Clintons lack.

    January 3, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  6. Saul San Francisco, CA

    This is something the conservative think tanks have thought up to try and scare voters and motivate their conservative base. Another dirty trick that Republicans try to play to confuse people and change the topic away from their own policy ideas, which benefit a few wealthy elite.

    January 3, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. PW Va

    Why is it that no one's heard a peep from karl rove, scooter libby, don rumsfield, al rodriguez, harriet miers and eevn dick cheney (and a plethora of others) during this whole process....UNTIL NOW. I see their fingerprints all over this!!!

    January 3, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  8. rtbohan, Sumter, SC

    Many strange seleections have been made to the Supreme Court, but I believe the appointment of s former lawyer disbarred for perjury would be a new low

    January 3, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  9. therealist

    This is what we expect from the Clintons..

    January 3, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  10. Donovan

    Wake up, people–you are being manipulated. This kind of "news" story on the day of the Iowa caucus is designed to inflame voters who might otherwise vote for Hillary Clinton. Shame on you, CNN.

    January 3, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  11. chris cbus

    i just decided to vote hillary. not because i like her, but because this horribly tasteless attack has irritated me that bad.

    January 3, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  12. Kris in AL

    Oh yeah? How could someone convicted of PERJURY serve on the S C or any court?

    January 3, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  13. billybobblojob

    Somebody should tell Antonin Scalia to try and enjoy the relative self-imposed anonymity the justices rely on to do their jobs free of political and public pressures.

    Or somebody should tell this conservative lawyer who regularly argues before the Supreme Court to crack down on his own whack jobs before he makes snide comments about Clinton.

    January 3, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  14. Brad from AZ yarr!

    Wow, another reason she won't get elected.

    Have fun watching your numbers go down Hillary.

    Then again, if the evil one does get elected, I guess the end times have to happen some time.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not a set in stone Republican or Democrat, I just have favorites and evil ones of both, and well, Hillary out does them all. And don't think its because she's a woman, honestly, I don't care what gender, ethnicity, religion you are, so long as you are good at the job I elect you to do.

    She has a glorious way of purposely changing her appearance, putting on a fake accent for an entire speech, and well, freaking out when she gets a question that wasn't pre-read or given to the person asking, she just, wow, crazy.

    Once again, Brad claims that the day Hillary gets elected is the day that all that mankind has come to know and love, will cease to exist.


    January 3, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  15. bob w

    what some people will publish to increase readership!

    January 3, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  16. Marshal Phillips, Wichita, Kansas

    Well, really... how actually bad a justice could Bill be? I think he would represent many people's point of view just fine, particularly minorities, blacks and gays etc. He would certainly be much more fair than those pin headed conservatives we have now!
    But politically even if Hillary were president and even if she did name him, Bill would have to pass muster with the senate. That does seem a big if... it all depends on if enough liberals were in the senate to vote for him.
    Anyway... it wouldn't be a bad thing for our country, in my opinion!

    January 3, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  17. mike , ohio

    We now have Judge Judy..........Bill on the Supreme Court, Judge BOOTIE!

    January 3, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  18. What the

    Doesn't Congress have to approve such nonsense ?

    January 3, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  19. Mark

    A better idea if she wins would be to appoint Barack Obama. The man's a true constitutional scholar with an appropriately contemporary view of the Bill of Rights. That would be a SUPERB pick.

    I'm not sure you even have to be a lawyer to be a justice, so I doubt it would matter if Bill had been disbarred or not. I also don't think that Hillary would consider it unless it was a way to get him out of public and keep him from stealing her limelight.

    January 3, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Dave M


    Would never happen. Forget about any other issues, the spouse of the POTUS would have too many conflict-of-interest issues to be a Supreme Court Justice.

    Hillary would be a fool to try this, and say what you may, Hillary is no fool.

    January 3, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  21. Jim Belvidere, Illinois

    Bill Clinton was the biggest joke of a president the U.S. and the world has ever seen. On the plus side, he would not have to wear pants under that robe if he were appointed to the Supreme Court....Clinton, what a joke. Can' t this guy just go away?

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

    Hmmm...this is a story I'd expect to read on FoxNoise.com. What's up CNN?!

    Bill Clinton on the Supreme Court could help give millions of gay Americans the rights, equality and justice they have been denied by society.

    January 3, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. Bryn

    I like Bill, but this is just over the top. I'm not sure what the Clinton campaign's official comment is but I'd find this highly improbable based on many of the preceding comments. Even moreso, I feel this would be a huge ethical strain on the system. Assuming Hilary's victory, appointing him to a cabinet or high-level advisor post is tenuous enough, but a Supreme Court appointment, which is for life, would make the Clintons a contemporary dynasty. I thought that was part of the reason why America left England in order to break-away from family rule and dictatorships. This screams conflict-of-interest to me in the basic sense of the term. I think Bill has had his turn and it has since passed. I think he should use his political clout and wisdom in other ways to enhance America. Perhaps, when another democrat takes the white house, he can contemplate his role in America's future.

    January 3, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  24. Ian

    Any American that would vote for Hilary deserves Bill Clinton as Supreme Court Judge. If anyone would know a liar it would be Honest Bill.

    January 3, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  25. AJ, IL

    This really shows how weak Hillary is as a candidate without Bill Clinton. Everytime polls show Hillary slipping she either attacks the front-runner or throws Bill Clinton's image and name out to the public.

    January 3, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
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