Appeals Court Rules With Governor Bush And Schindlers On Key
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 13, 2004
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Governor Jeb Bush, along with Robert and Mary Schindler, scored key legal victories Friday, as a Florida appeals court handed down two decisions regarding Terri Schiavo's right to continue living.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that the governor's attorneys can interview witnesses in the suit that Michael Schiavo has filed against Bush. Mr. Schiavo sued the governor, claiming that he and the Florida Legislature violated his wife's privacy and overstepped the state's constitutional bounds when they passed "Terri's Law" last October. The measure gave the governor permission to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted six days after it had been removed under a court order.
The decision means that Bush's attorney, Ken Connor, can take testimony from several witnesses, including Mr. Schiavo and the woman he calls his "fiancée" and with whom he has fathered two children.
The appeals court also ordered Pinellas Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird to hold further proceedings to re-examine his decision denying the Schindlers, who are Terri's parents, the right to join Bush in the case. Baird failed to follow judicial rules when he refused to allow the parents to get involved in Mr. Schiavo's suit against the governor, the appellate court said.
The Associated Press reported that the Schindlers' attorney, Pat Anderson, said she was "stunned".
"It's been three years since the law has been followed in this case," Anderson explained.
If Judge Baird rules that the Schindlers can join Bush's side in the case, Anderson would be allowed to file and oppose motions and to question witnesses for them.
Disability rights advocates have been watching Terri's legal battle for several years. Her husband, who is also her guardian, and several doctors claim that she has been in a "persistent vegetative state" since she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes in February 1990. The courts have consistently supported Mr. Schiavo's claims that Terri cannot recover from her injury, that she does not feel pain, and that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".
Terri's parents believe that she is alert and responsive and that she could improve with therapies which Mr. Schiavo has denied her for at least the past 10 years. They have claimed that Terri's husband wants her to die so that he can remarry, and so he can benefit from what's left of an insurance settlement that now pays for her treatment. The Schindlers want him removed as Terri's guardian and have pushed for an investigation into their allegations that he has abused, neglected and financially exploited her. They also suspect that Michael may have caused Terri's initial collapse.
The Schindlers and advocates have defended Terri's right to live, noting that allowing her to die by starvation would reinforce the message that the lives of people with certain disabilities are not worth living. With their urging and that of right-to-life advocates, Governor Bush championed the measure that allowed the legislature to give him permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted to save her life.
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation