Appeals Court Issues Stay in Terri’s Law Case While Bush Challenges

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 17, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Appeals Court Issues Stay in Terri’s Law Case While Bush Challenges

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 17, 2003

Pinellas Park, FL ( — In a victory for Terri Schiavo and Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL), a Florida state appeals court late Friday issued a temporary stay in the lawsuit filed by Michael Schiavo against Terri’s Law.

The stay allows Bush’s legal team to move forward with its appeal of a judge’s decision to disallow their request to dismiss Michael’s lawsuit against Terri’s Law.

Terri’s Law authorized Governor Bush to request that doctors reinsert the feeding tube that is helping Terri stay alive. Although Terri is not in a coma or on life support, her estranged husband Michael won the right from the courts to remove Terri’s tube recently for six days.

Michael is seeking to overturn the law and remove Terri’s feeding tube for a third time.

Bush had asked Circuit Judge Douglas Baird last week to dismiss Michael’s lawsuit saying that it wasn’t served to Bush personally and wasn’t filed in courts in Tallahassee, where the law was passed and the executive order saving Terri issued.

Baird declined and Bush appealed the decision, triggering an automatic stay in Michael’s suit. Michael’s attorneys sought to overturn the stay. Baird lifted it early Friday, but the appeals court overruled and upheld it later in the day.

George Felos, the assisted suicide advocate who is representing Michael, must now explains to the courts why he wants the lawsuit on the fast track. Felos has accused Bush of wanting to delay the case as long as possible.

The ACLU recently joined Michael’s legal team and is helping Felos.

"I’m not dragging my feet," Bush countered after filing the appeal. "I think it’s appropriate in something that is a matter of life and death that the procedures that we believe are the appropriate ones should take place."

Also on Friday, Terri’s family filed a notice of appeal of an earlier decision by Judge Baird that denied the Schindler family status as parties in Michael’s lawsuit.

Pat Anderson, attorney for Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, said her "life continues to be threatened by those forces who want to see her die from starvation and dehydration. We are once again grateful that the governor is doing everything in his power to protect Terri’s life."

"We will continue to do everything in our power to see that Terri’s life is protected and we will not rest until Terri is home safe with her family," Anderson added.

Baird claimed any delays in adjudicating Michael’s lawsuit were a violation of Terri’s right to privacy.

"The deprivation of this right is immediate, ongoing and presumptively unconstitutional," Baird said from the bench.

Speaker of the House Johnnie Byrd last week filed an amicus brief to defend 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.

Anderson, attorney for the Schindler family, said: "This case is not about some abstract constitutional theory. Terri Schiavo’s life hangs in the balance."

Related web sites:
House Speaker Byrd’s legal brief –

Terri’s family –