Governor Bush Takes Schiavo Case To U.S. Supreme Court
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 2, 2004
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA--Attorneys for Governor Jeb Bush asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to decide whether the Florida Supreme Court violated Terri Schiavo's federal rights when it overturned the law that has kept her alive for the past year.
Bush's attorneys argued that, when it rejected "Terri's Law" earlier this year, the Florida court did not give the governor nor Terri a fair trial as guaranteed under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The state court ruled in September that Bush was wrong to champion the measure under which the Legislature gave him authority in October 2003 to override her husband's wishes to have Terri starve and dehydrate to death. The court said that the law violated Florida's Constitution by giving the governor and Legislature illegal power over the judicial system.
To the Supreme Court, Bush's attorneys explained that the governor's action to reinsert the feeding tube was meant to protect a woman with disabilities who could not speak for herself and who did not have an independent guardian to speak on her behalf.
"It has taken our nation many years to make good on its commitment to equal justice for persons with profound cognitive disabilities," they wrote.
"Unless the State of Florida retains the power to protect the rights of its most vulnerable citizens to due process and equal protection under the laws, the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantees will apply only to those who are capable of defending them on their own."
The attorneys further declared that Terri is not in a vegetative state -- as her husband maintains -- that she has not been properly represented in the courts, and that the proceedings which allowed Michael Schiavo, who is her guardian, to have her feeding tube removed in the first place were "tainted".
If the Supreme Court agrees to consider the case, it could take several weeks or months before arguments are heard, with a decision later next year.
In 2001, the same court refused to hear an appeal by Terri's parents who argued that her feeding tube should not be removed.
Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, accused Bush Wednesday of preventing Terri from carrying out her right to die.
Disability rights groups have been closely following Terri's situation for years.
Terri, who turns 41 on Friday, collapsed from a heart attack in February 1990 and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. She breathes on her own, but because she does not swallow, she receives food and water through the tube installed through the wall of her stomach.
Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer agreed with Mr. Schiavo and several doctors that Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state" -- that her brain is damaged the point where she cannot interact with her environment, does not feel pain, and will not recover -- and that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means". Greer allowed Terri's feeding tube to be removed on October 15, 2003.
Terri's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, claim that Terri responds to them, smiles, tracks movements with her eyes, and has even tried to stand up. They want Mr. Schiavo removed as guardian, saying that he has a number of conflicts of interest regarding Terri's welfare. They also contend that Terri, a Roman Catholic, would not want to violate a recent pronouncement by Pope John Paul II condemning the removal of feeding tubes.
With the help of disability rights and right-to-life advocates, the Schindlers pressured Bush and the Legislature to pass the law, which resulted in Terri's feeding tube being reinserted five days after it was removed.
Mr. Schiavo appealed that action to the state Supreme Court, claiming the law violated Terri's right to privacy and the state constitution. The high court did not address the privacy concerns, but said the governor and the Legislature had overstepped their legal bounds in passing and implementing the law.
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)