Justices reject Schiavo appeal
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 10:44 p.m.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday essentially ended legal efforts by Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida to keep a brain-damaged woman alive using a feeding tube against her husband's wishes.
Without comment, the court declined to hear a challenge brought by the governor's office to a Florida State Supreme Court decision in September striking down a law that had let Bush order the reinsertion of the feeding tube for the woman, Terri Schiavo.
Schiavo's feeding tube was removed in October 2003 at the request of her husband, Michael, after a number of court hearings and appeals brought by her parents. But at the urging of the governor, a Republican, the Republican-controlled Legislature quickly adopted what was known as Terri's Law, and the tube was reinserted six days later.
Schiavo, 41, has been kept on the tube since then, and when or whether it will be removed in light of Monday's decision is not clear because of other legal action pending.
"It means that the governor's interference in this case has ended," Michael Schiavo's attorney, George J. Felos, said of the decision on Monday. "It means the decision by the Florida Supreme Court declaring Terri's Law unconstitutional stands."
Terri Schiavo left no will or instructions about her care in the event that she became incapacitated. Michael Schiavo contends she never wanted to be kept alive artificially. But her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, told the justices in a legal brief that their son-in-law was trying to hasten her death so he could inherit her estate and be free to marry another woman.
Robert Schindler vowed Monday to keep his daughter on the feeding tube.
"What happened here today is judicial homicide," he said from Washington, where he and his wife were attending a right-to-life march. "It borders on the criminal. They've ignored all the facts. Terri is not a person in a vegetative state. Terri talks. She reacts to the family. She reacts to commands. She needs therapy, and she's been denied it for 10 years."
Felos said that the Supreme Court decision not to hear the case essentially affirmed lower court rulings that the governor had no legal right to intervene.
"It's important that the highest court stepped up to the plate and said that under our system of justice court rules stand and can't be overruled by a governor," he said.
Terri Schiavo's parents have several legal challenges pending, including one in which they contend that their daughter's due process rights have not been upheld. That matter will be heard on Friday by Judge George W. Greer of Pinellas County Circuit Court, who already has ruled that Michael Schiavo can withdraw her feeding tube. Felos said he could not predict how soon any action might be taken that would directly affect Terri Schiavo's fate.
"This case is just going to keep going until state court judges say, 'No more, we're not going to continue this abuse of the legal system,"' he said. An attorney for the governor, Ken Connor, said in a telephone conference call on Monday morning that Bush's motivation to get involved was "asserting the rights of the Legislature and the governor to protect vigorously the rights of people who cannot speak for themselves."
But, Connor added, "this matter is now at an end for the governor."
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