Florida House Speaker Files Legal Brief Defending "Terri’s Law"

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 10, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Florida House Speaker Files Legal Brief Defending "Terri’s Law"

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
November 10, 2003

Pinellas Park, FL (LifeNews.com) — The Speaker of the Florida state legislature on Monday filed an amicus brief to defend Terri’s Law. The brief comes as a response to the lawsuit filed by attorneys for Terri’s estranged husband Michael, who is seeking to overturn the law and remove Terri’s feeding tube for a third time.

Meanwhile, attorneys for Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) asked a state appeals court to overturn a judge’s decision denying Bush’s request to dismiss Michael’s lawsuit on technical grounds.

Speaker of the House Johnnie Byrd’s friend-of-the-court brief asks Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Douglas Baird to uphold the constitutionality of Terri’s Law. It argues that the state legislature has the constitutional ability to pass or change laws, even if they differ from rulings made by the courts.

Florida courts have repeatedly affirmed Michael’s decision, as Terri’s guardian, to end her life — despite evidence from numerous doctors that Terri has a chance to recover if given proper medical treatment and rehabilitative care.

However, Byrd’s brief argues that "the legislature’s role in establishing public policy is paramount and its role in regulating the actions of the other branches is significant." Byrd says the judiciary should "decide disputes under the law" rather than making it.

The brief also says Terri’s Law does not deviate from the separation of powers because the legislature has the authority to regulate health care policy and protect human life.

Michael Schiavo’s attorney George Felos, an assisted suicide advocate, disagrees.

In his brief, filed with help from the ACLU, Felos argued that Terri’s Law violated Terri’s right to privacy and constituted a violation of the separation of powers outlined in the Florida constitution.

Meanwhile, Bush attorney Ken Conner appealed Baird’s decision denying a request to dismiss Michael’s lawsuit.

Conner, the former president of the Family Research Council and Florida Right to Life, said the lawsuit wasn’t served to Bush personally and wasn’t filed in courts in Tallahassee, where the law was passed and the executive order issued.

Baird disagreed with Conner’s arguments and said that Bush attorneys’ participation in a late-night telephone conference the day the lawsuit was filed pointed to their acceptance of it.

The appeal to Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeals generated an automatic stay in Michael’s lawsuit.

However, Felos said he would file a motion soon asking Baird to vacate the stay so the case can proceed while the appeals court deals with the procedural dispute.

"It’s obvious to anyone looking at this that the governor is trying any legal tactic to delay this case being decided on its merits, and you have to wonder why," Felos said. "The obvious reason is that he thinks he’s going to lose."

A representative of Governor Bush said the motions are not an attempt to delay the case.

Patricia Anderson, attorney for the Schindler family, said "Today’s developments re-emphasize the fact that this case is not about some abstract constitutional theory. Terri Schiavo’s life hangs in the balance. We are pleased that Governor Bush is making every effort to ensure that Terri’s Law is defended."

House Speaker Byrd’s legal brief –