Almost (Really) Famous: 9 Former Supreme Court Candidates

Mario Cuomo (seated with Hilary Clinton) declined President Bill Clinton's offer for Supreme Court candidacy.
Mario Cuomo (seated with Hilary Clinton) declined President Bill Clinton's offer for Supreme Court candidacy.
JENNIFER LAW, Getty Images

If she's confirmed, Solicitor General Elena Kagan would become the fourth woman to sit on the Supreme Court. If not, at least she'll earn a spot on a future version of this list—candidates who were almost appointed to the highest court in the land.

1. Dallin H. Oaks

After suffering a debilitating stroke, William O. Douglas reluctantly retired from the Supreme Court in 1975. Douglas, who was in office for 36 years, was determined to outlast Gerald Ford's presidential term after Ford had unsuccessfully attempted to impeach Douglas while serving as House Minority Leader five years earlier. While Ford selected Seventh Circuit judge John Paul Stevens to replace Douglas, he considered several other candidates, including Brigham Young University president Dallin H. Oaks.

Six years later, while serving as a Utah Supreme Court Justice, Oaks was a candidate for the Supreme Court vacancy that Sandra Day O'Connor eventually filled. In 1984, Oaks retired from the Utah Supreme Court to pursue a higher calling and was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Today, Oaks is the fifth most senior apostle among the ranks of the LDS church.

2. Robert H. Bork

Ronald Reagan elevated William Rehnquist to Chief Justice following Warren Burger's retirement in 1986 and considered two judges—Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia—to fill the Associate Justice vacancy created by Rehnquist's promotion. While Reagan chose the younger Scalia this time, he would nominate Bork to fill the vacancy left by Lewis Powell, who retired one year later. Democrats had threatened to put up a fight if Reagan nominated a conservative to replace the moderate Powell and Bork, a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was an easy target. He had close ties to Richard Nixon, having fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox at Nixon's request while serving as United States Solicitor General in 1973. Shortly after Bork was nominated, Sen. Ted Kennedy condemned him during a nationally televised speech. "Bork's rigid ideology will tip the scales of justice against the kind of country America is and ought to be," Kennedy said. While many Democrats would admit that Kennedy's criticism of Bork was over the top, the damage had been done. The Senate rejected Bork's confirmation, 58-42.

After Bork was rejected, Reagan planned to nominate Douglas Ginsburg, but Ginsburg withdrew his name from consideration after it was revealed that he had smoked marijuana with his students while he was a professor at Harvard Law School. Reagan ultimately chose Ninth Circuit judge Anthony Kennedy.

3. Edith H. Jones

After a stroke led William Brennan to announce his retirement in 1990, George H.W. Bush moved quickly to nominate a replacement. John Sununu, the White House chief of staff, helped Bush narrow a list of about a dozen candidates down to two: First Circuit judge David Souter and Fifth Circuit judge Edith H. Jones. Less than a week after the news broke that Brennan was stepping down, Bush nominated Souter. "Reading between the lines, and that's all it is, maybe we're talking about a sequence here," Sununu said of Jones after the decision was announced. "Maybe she is the choice the next time we have a vacancy on the Court. There are no sure things, and times and conditions can change, but the President was impressed." Jones, who was later considered for a Supreme Court vacancy by George W. Bush, is currently the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

4. Emilio M. Garza

Like William O. Douglas, liberal Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, had no plans of leaving the bench while a conservative was in office. But Marshall was becoming increasingly ill and announced his retirement in 1991, two years before he died of a heart failure, while George H.W. Bush was in the White House. A number of candidates were reportedly considered for the vacancy, including Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, Clarence Thomas, and Garza, who was a recently appointed Fifth Circuit judge. Due to concerns over Garza's inexperience—he had only been on the Fifth Circuit for a few weeks—and a desire to replace Marshall with a black conservative, Bush chose Thomas.

5. Mario Cuomo

Byron White, who was an All-American running back at Colorado before attending Yale and being appointed to the Supreme Court in 1962, retired from office in 1993. Bill Clinton wanted to offer the position to New York Governor Mario Cuomo, the only person he mentioned as a potential replacement during his 1992 campaign. While he initially seemed open to the idea, Cuomo later sent a letter to Clinton indicating that he was not interested in the position. "I do not know whether you might indeed have nominated me, but because there has been public speculation concerning the possibility, I think I owe it to you to make clear now that I do not wish to be considered," Cuomo wrote. After Cuomo declined, Clinton considered several other candidates, including Sen. George J. Mitchell and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, before ultimately nominating Columbia law professor and judge for the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

6. Richard Arnold

Harry Blackmun announced his retirement in 1994 and Clinton was prepared to offer the nomination to Mitchell, who had turned down the offer the previous year to remain in the Senate. Clinton also considered Eighth Circuit judge Richard S. Arnold, a fellow Arkansas native, but he had reservations about Arnold's health. Arnold had been diagnosed with low-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphoma nearly 20 years earlier. Clinton eventually chose First Circuit judge Stephen Breyer, who had interviewed with Clinton for the vacancy left by White in 1993, but failed to impress, perhaps as a result of the pain he was in after being hit by a car while biking a few days earlier. Arnold died from an infection related to his treatment in 2004.

7. Edith Brown Clement

When Sandra Day O'Connor announced her plans to retire in 2005, it left George W. Bush with his first opportunity after more than four years in office to nominate a member of the Supreme Court. First Lady Laura Bush suggested that a woman should replace O'Connor and two female judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals—Edith Brown Clement and Edith Jones (see #3)—were reportedly among the leading candidates. Clement soon emerged as the rumored choice, but after ABC News published a story on its website that Clement was not Bush's pick, the attention turned to the candidate who had become known as the "Other Edith." Bush, of course, selected John G. Roberts, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, instead. Clement continues to serve as a Fifth Circuit judge.

8. Harriet Miers

When Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died in September 2005, Roberts's confirmation was still pending. Bush withdrew and then resubmitted Roberts's nomination, this time for Chief Justice, leaving O'Connor's seat vacant once again. Bush nominated a woman, his close friend Harriet Miers, but the choice sparked unprecedented criticism from both parties. Robert Bork called the nomination "a disaster on every level." Miers, the White House Counsel who had previously served as Bush's private attorney, lacked judicial experience and her position on key issues was largely unknown. Facing heated criticism, Bush eventually accepted Miers's request to withdraw her nomination and chose Third Circuit judge Samuel Alito as O'Connor's replacement.

9. Janet Napolitano

The short list of Barack Obama's candidates to replace David Souter when Souter announced his plans to retire at the end of the Supreme Court's term in 2009 included Seventh Circuit judge Pamela Wood, future nominee Kagan, and the eventual nominee, Second Circuit judge Sonia Sotomayor. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was also among the candidates who met with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden before a decision was made. Had Napolitano been nominated and confirmed, she would have served alongside Clarence Thomas. In 1991, Napolitano represented Anita Hill, who had accused Thomas of sexual harassment, during the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on the matter.

What Happens to Leftover Campaign Funds When a Candidate Drops Out?

After nearly one year of campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, Kamala Harris has officially bowed out of the 2020 election. She's not the only would-be president to call it quits so far. So what happens to all the leftover campaign funds when a candidate drops out?

One thing's for sure: Upset candidates can't console themselves by putting the dough toward a new yacht and sailing off to recuperate. The Federal Election Commission has strict rules about what federal candidates can and can't do with leftover campaign money, and the biggest directive is that they can't pocket it for personal use.

Here's what a campaign committee is allowed to do with any lingering cash: it can donate the funds to charities or political parties; it can contribute $2000 per election to other candidates; and it can save the money in case the candidate chooses to run again. However, those regulations don't apply to the relatively new super PACs (Political Action Committees); this is only the third election where they have played a role, and there are currently no rules to stipulate what happens to that money beyond that it cannot go to fund another federal candidate. Much of that money tends to be returned to its original donors, used to wrap up the failed campaign, or donated to back a state-level candidate. The goal, however, is always to spend all of that money.

Running a campaign is an expensive proposition—Barack Obama spent nearly $750 million on his 2008 White House bid, and in 2012 he spent $985 million on reelection while challenger Mitt Romney spent $992 million—and insufficient cash is often a reason campaigns go belly up.

As for winning (or sometimes losing) politicians, they'll often put their leftover funds toward their next race. If they choose not to run, they have to abide by the same FEC rules. Wonder why this law is in effect? Until 1993, U.S. Representatives who took office before January 8, 1980, were allowed to keep any leftover campaign cash when they retired, but a study showed that a third of Congress kept and spent millions in campaign donations on personal items like clothing, jewelry, artwork, personal travel, and dry cleaning. Embarrassed, Congress passed a law negating this custom for the House; the Senate already had provisions in place so this wouldn't happen.

In reality though, officials can usually find a way to make that cash still work for them (and state laws differ from federal ones). After Chris Christie won reelection as New Jersey's governor in 2014, his campaign was granted permission to use some of its remaining war chest to cover the legal fees Christie incurred during the Bridgegate scandal. And this was well before he dropped $26.7 million on his failed 2016 presidential bid.

An earlier version of this article originally ran in 2012.

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