A Florida probate court judge has again ruled against the parents of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, the 40-year-old, brain-disabled woman whose estranged husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, is determined to end her life by removing her feeding tube.
Schiavo, who insists his wife is in a persistent vegetative state and would rather die than be fed through a feeding tube, has been locked in a multi-year legal battle with Terri’s parents and siblings who argue Terri is alert, has a strong will to live and, given appropriate therapy, can be rehabilitated. Terri left no written directive.
In a brief ruling Wednesday, Judge George Greer dissolved and dismissed a writ of quo warranto he had granted April 30 in response to the petition attorney Patricia Anderson filed on behalf of Bob and Mary Schindler four days earlier.
Quo warranto means “by what authority,” and in their petition the Schindlers asked the court to require that their son-in-law “demonstrate his authority to act on [Terri's behalf] or in derogation of her rights retained under Florida law” – considering he has not performed various tasks mandated by the guardianship statutes. Ultimately, the Schindlers hoped the court would rule that because Schiavo has been derelict in his duties and not fulfilled his obligations, he is not authorized to act on Terri’s behalf and could no longer be her guardian.
Anderson, who represents Schindlers in their on-going legal battle with their son-in-law, explained in the petition:
“As Guardian of the Person, [Shiavo] is mandated by the Code to file with and obtain approval from the court for an annual care plan for Theresa Marie Schiavo for the coming year. No guardian may exercise the delegated rights of his ward except pursuant to such a plan. Since 1990, Respondent has never received approval for a care plan on a prospective basis. [He] last obtained approval for a care plan on May 8, 2002 filed February 1, 2002 – for the year ending June 30, 2001, nineteen months late. Respondent [Schiavo] has not even filed a proposed care plan since then, relying instead on a series of deadline extensions.”
The annual plan, as required by the Florida statutes, “must specify the current needs of the ward and how those needs are to be met in the coming year,” she explained. “It must provide plans for medical, mental health and rehabilitative services in the coming year, plus a description of the ward’s attempts at communication and visitation and a description of her social needs.
“No provision is made for the elimination of rehabilitative services or medical treatment or elimination of visitation.”
Anderson drew particular attention to the extraction of five of Terri’s back teeth on Apr. 20, pointing out that the issue of dental “discoloration,” that prompted the alleged need for oral surgery, was first raised before the court at a hearing in Feb. 2002, which addressed the inadequacy of the proposed care plan.
“[Schiavo] has no right to deny [Terri] ‘necessary services and rehabilitation’ in connection with these and possibly other, unknown maladies,” Anderson wrote.
Judge Greer, who has presided over the case since 1999 and is responsible for the many adverse decisions, did not address any of these matters. In his ruling dissolving the writ he neither denied Anderson’s allegations nor rebutted them: he simply ignored them – artfully dodging the imperative of holding Schiavo accountable for his behavior towards Terri.
Greer said the Schindlers already have an “adequate remedy at law” – a petition they filed on Nov. 15, 2002, in which they asked the court to remove Schiavo as guardian and appoint another person in his place.
“Logic and reason would lead us to conclude that an extraordinary remedy should not be afforded where an ordinary one is available,” he wrote. Moreover, “extraordinary relief” – the writ in this case – will not be granted, if granting it would result in “confusion and disorder.”
That the Schindlers are “actively pursuing” both a writ of quo warranto and a petition to remove Schiavo as guardian would lead to “procedural confusion,” according to Greer.
The Rule of Terri’s Case
Pat Anderson told WorldNetDaily she was disappointed but not surprised at Greer’s dismissal of the Schindlers’ petition, since adverse rulings are the norm when it comes to Terri. These are so common that the attorney made up a term describing the phenomenon, though she is at a loss to explain its reason.
“I call it ‘The Rule of Terri’s Case,’” she said ruefully – “All rules and all laws will be suspended if it will hasten Terri’s death.”
Anderson said she can’t explain why this is so, only that it is – and it can be seen operating not only in Greer’s court, but other lower courts, the appeal court, and even the state Supreme Court.
“If a statute or a rule or a procedure or a rule of law articulated in the case is followed in every other circumstance, it will not be followed in Terri’s case if not following it will hasten her death,” she said.
“And the converse applies as well: they will move to enforce every rule of law if it will hasten her death.”
Since replacing Schiavo with another as guardian would benefit Terri, that’s not going to happen, any more than requiring the timely filing of annual care plans.
“It’s another example of the Rule of Terri’s Case,” said Anderson, commenting on Greer’s most recent ruling. “This judge, for whatever reason, continues to turn a blind eye to Michael’s deliberate flouting of his responsibilities under Florida law. Michael ordered five of Terri’s teeth to be extracted this spring – after nine years of complete dental neglect – and he has not filed the mandatory annual care plan for Terri on time in years.
“Why is this guardian allowed to get away with that? What authority does he have to order her teeth to be pulled or to refuse to have her teeth cleaned?
“What’s going on here,” she demanded, then answered her own question. “It’s the Rule of Terri’s Case. You can’t ever forget it,” she said.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Terri suffered massive brain injury when she collapsed under unexplained circumstances in the couple’s apartment in February 1990, at the age of 26. Oxygen to her brain was cut off for several minutes, leaving her severely brain-disabled, incapacitated, and dependent upon a feeding tube for sustenance.
Four years ago Schiavo convinced Judge Greer that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state, or PVS – a requirement under Florida law for removing a feeding tube from a non-terminally ill person.
Through a series of legal maneuvers the Schindlers managed to keep the case and their daughter alive, but their options appeared to have run out last year when 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 food and water before state lawmakers passed “Terri’s Law” that allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to step in and order her feeding tube reinserted, an action immediately challenged by attorney George Felos, who represents Schiavo in his effort to remove his wife’s feeding tube.
On May 6, Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird handed Schiavo a victory by ruling Terri’s Law unconstitutional. Over the objections of Gov. Jeb Bush, the appeal court granted a motion by Schiavo and Felos and sent the case directly to the Florida Supreme Court, agreeing with Felos that the ruling was a matter of great public importance and deserved immediate attention.
The Florida Supreme Court agreed to take the case. Oral arguments are scheduled for August 31.
Information, including court documents, are posted on the Schindler family website.