In what her family and supporters are calling “Valentines for Terri,” a Florida appellate court has handed down two stunning rulings favorable to Gov. Jeb Bush and the parents of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, who are fighting to keep the brain-disabled woman alive despite her estranged husband’s wishes.
The legislation gave the governor authority to stop Terri’s court-ordered starvation death after her feeding tube was removed in October, as demanded by her husband, Michael Schiavo.
In a separate decision, the appeal court said Pinellas Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird did not follow a “well-established” judicial rule when he blocked Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, from actively participating in the lawsuit filed against “Terri’s Law” Oct. 30 by their son-in-law.
Acting on a motion by Schiavo’s attorney George Felos, Baird in November dismissed a request by the Schindlers to intervene in the case, holding that they “do not have a sufficient legal interest in the narrow subject [the constitutionality of ‘Terri’s Law’] that would justify formal intervention.”
The appeals court reversed the order and wrote that the judge “does not explain why the Schindlers’ interest was insufficient” as the rule requires.
Baird was directed to hold “further proceedings” on the matter.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a Virginia-based public interest law firm that represents the Schindlers and had sought intervention status for them, hailed the decision, saying it is “encouraging” and “opens the door for Terri’s parents to intervene directly in this critical case.”
“This decision gives us one more opportunity to convince the court to do what should have been done from the very start – permit Terri’s parents to take a direct and active role in defending the state law that is the only thing keeping their daughter alive,” the group said.
Attorney Patricia Anderson, who represents the Schindlers in other aspects of the ongoing case, told the Associated Press she was “stunned” by the decisions since the courts have routinely ruled against Terri’s parents and, since the governor’s involvement, against Jeb Bush himself.
“It’s been three years since the law has been followed in this case,” she said.
As reported by WorldNetDaily, the Schindlers have been locked in a lengthy legal fight with their son-in-law to prevent him from carrying out his intention to disconnect their daughter’s feeding tube. Schiavo, 40, who also is Terri’s legal guardian, insists his wife had told him she would not want to be kept alive “through artificial means.” Her parents doubt Terri ever made such a statement, but four years ago, Schiavo convinced Pinellas County probate court Judge George Greer that she had and obtained permission to order her feeding tube removed.
Through a series of legal maneuvers, the Schindlers managed to keep the case and their daughter alive. However, their options appeared to have run out last year when the 2nd District Court of Appeal made a final ruling in Schiavo’s favor and the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
In October, Terri endured six days without nourishment and hydration before Florida lawmakers passed “Terri’s Law,” and Bush stepped in and ordered her feeding tube reinserted.
Schiavo promptly sued Bush, arguing the legislation violated the separation-of-powers principle of government as well as Terri’s right to privacy.
As part of his defense, the governor’s attorney, Kenneth Connor, asked Judge Baird for permission to depose seven key witnesses, including Schiavo himself and Jodi Centonze, the woman with whom he has lived for nine years and had two children.
In a countermove, Felos argued that the issues Connor wanted to look into
were “irrelevant” or had been resolved in earlier court proceedings and the
governor was attempting to “relitigate” what was already decided. There was
therefore no need for further depositions. Baird, in basic agreement,
granted Felos’ motion for a protective order prohibiting the questioning of
these witnesses, though he indicated he might allow it later if it was shown
to be necessary.
The appellate court quashed the order, ruling a complete bar on taking depositions could harm the governor’s case.
Such an order “departs from the essential requirements of the law,” the judges wrote, because Schiavo “failed to demonstrate good cause for a blanket ban on the taking of depositions.”
Information, including court filings, are posted on the Schindler family website.