The Florida state constitution declares unequivocally that in the state of Florida “the supreme executive power shall be vested in a governor … .” The word supreme means highest in authority. There can be no executive authority in the state of Florida higher than the governor. No state law can create an executive authority higher than highest in the Florida constitution. Therefore no court order based upon such a law can constitutionally create such an authority.
If the governor tells the local police in Pinellas County to step aside, they must do so, or else be arrested and tried for an assault on the government of the state, which is to say insurrection.
(If Gov. Jeb Bush fears that for some reason they would question the authority of his representatives, then he should take the necessary law enforcement officials to Tampa in person, thus making the situation crystal clear.)
Since Florida’s highest law grants him supreme executive power, the governor’s action would be lawful. No one in the Florida judiciary can say otherwise, since the whole basis for the doctrine of judicial review (which they invoked when they refused to apply “Terri’s law”) is that any law at variance with the constitution is no law at all.
Gov. Bush has said that he recognizes the injustice being done to Terri Schiavo but is powerless to stop it. He is obviously not powerless, and his view of injustice is fully warranted.
The Florida state constitution declares: “All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty … .”
The word “inalienable” means that the rights in question cannot be given away or transferred to another by law. Now, by allowing Michael Schiavo to starve his wife to death, Judge George W. Greer transfers to Schiavo the exercise of her right to life, doing on her behalf what the Florida state constitution declares she herself could not do (since an inalienable right cannot be given away).
Schiavo’s decision, and any element of the law it is based on that has the same effect, are therefore unconstitutional on the face of it.
The governor of Florida cannot be obliged to enforce unconstitutional edicts, nor can he be faulted for acting to stop an evident violation of the constitution. In his oath as governor he swore to “support, protect and defend the Constitution and government of the United States and of the state of Florida.”
As supreme executive, he is obliged to act in their defense, and no court order can relieve him of this responsibility.
Any order by Judge Greer that seeks to prevent him from doing his sworn duty, as he sees fit, is invalid, and any attempt by the judge to incite armed forces to enforce his order would be an act of judicial insurrection against the constitution and government of Florida.
The judge may have whatever opinion he pleases, but when he attempts to use force to back it up, he breaks the law, going against the constitution of the state, which is to say against the supreme law in Florida.
In Federalist 81, when Alexander Hamilton lists the safeguards against “judiciary encroachments on the legislative authority,” he cites in particular “its total incapacity to support its usurpations by force.”
Accepting the notion that judicial orders at any level may constitute an executive power superior to the chief executive would give the judiciary just such a forceful capacity.
When every judicial decision carries the implied threat of armed insurrection, a key safeguard of liberty and self-government is removed. If any state governor, or the president of the United States acts so as to encourage the judiciary to assume such executive power, or the people to believe that it may constitutionally do so, he undermines the integrity of all our constitutions, and of American self-government as a whole.
This constitutes a grave dereliction of duty and would in saner times clearly be grounds for his impeachment by a legislature intent on defending the Florida constitution against “judiciary encroachments.”
By God’s grace, however, Terri Schiavo still lives, and Gov. Bush may yet act to redeem himself and his constitutional authority. Courageous action would be an act of statesmanship, defending the integrity of our constitutional system and the ultimate sovereignty of the people.
We have long been awaiting the statesman who could turn a crisis into such healing. Like Ronald Reagan before him, Jeb Bush could prove himself such a man. For Terri’s sake and for the sake of constitutional self-government in America, he should act now. For failure to do so, he has no excuse.