Judge Rejects Governor's Plea To Throw Out Constitutional Challenge
To "Terri's Law"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 7, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Pinellas County Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird on Friday denied Governor Jeb Bush's request to throw out a lawsuit brought by Terri Schiavo's husband and the American Civil Liberties Union which challenged the law that is keeping her alive.
Judge Baird ordered Bush's attorneys to explain by Monday evening why he should not declare "Terri's Law" unconstitutional.The legislature passed the law on October 21, granting the governor authority to have Terri's gastronomy tube reinstalled six days after it had been removed under another Circuit Court judge's order. Immediately after the bill was signed and Terri's feeding tube was reinserted, Michael Schiavo's attorneys, joined by the ACLU, sued the governor for violating Terri's privacy. The suit also claimed that the legislature and governor exceeded their authority by overriding the state court's decisions.
The governor's attorneys had argued last week that the suit should have been filed in Tallahassee instead of Tampa and that Bush had not been properly notified of the suit. Judge Baird rejected that argument.
Mr. Schiavo, who is also Terri's guardian, had asked as early as 1998 for his wife's feeding tube to be removed according to what he has said would have been her wishes. The courts have repeatedly sided with Mr. Schiavo.
Bush has recruited anti-abortion activist Ken Connor to head up his legal team in the case. Connor intends to argue that, while Terri does have a right to privacy, her right to life is more important.
"The state has a compelling interest in preserving human life," Connor said Friday.
Terri collapsed on February 25, 1990 and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. Since then, she has been breathing on her own and regulating her own blood pressure, but has been given nourishment and water through the gastronomy tube installed in her stomach.
Several doctors have said that Terri, now 39, is in a "persistent vegetative state", in which she can feel nothing and from which she cannot recover. Since February 2000, Florida courts have agreed with Mr. Schiavo's request to have the feeding tube removed, based on his assertion that she told him before her collapse that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have produced affidavits from number of medical professionals who claim that she is alert, responsive and that she might improve with rehabilitative therapies -- which Mr. Schiavo has refused to allow for at least the last 10 years. They have fought Mr. Schiavo in the courts to keep their daughter alive, and have petitioned to have him removed as her guardian.
The Schindlers accuse their son-in-law of abusing and neglecting his wife and bringing about her initial collapse. They also claim that he has abandoned his role as Terri's husband by living for the past five years with another woman, whom he calls his fiancée and with whom he has fathered two children.
On Thursday, Bush sent a letter to Terri's court-appointed guardian ad litem, asking to meet with him in person to express his own concerns for Terri and to assist in "determining the scope" of his review. Jay Wolfson, the University of South Florida professor who was appointed Terri's guardian ad litem, had been instructed to determine certain facts regarding Terri's condition and submit them with recommendations to the governor.
"I need to have a larger set of facts to explore and so I want to talk to him about it," the governor explained.
Mr. Schiavo's attorneys called Bush's request "very inappropriate".
Disability rights groups have said that Terri's death by starvation would reinforce the idea that the lives of people with certain disabilities are not worth living. Disability and right-to-life groups are calling Bush's action a victory in grassroots activism. The passage of "Terri's Law" came after the governor's office and the legislature were swamped by more than 100,000 email messages, most expressing outrage at the removal of Terri's feeding tube.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported on Friday that between 10,000 and 20,000 people in the U.S. are currently in a "persistent vegetative state".
"Bush facing court test to defend Terri's Law" (Sun-Sentinel)
"Gov. Bush asks to meet guardian" (Miami Herald)
"Grassroots effort turned legal tide in Schiavo case" (Philadelphia Inquirer)
"Schiavo case not unique" (Tallahassee Democrat)
IDE Archives "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live"
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation