Appeals Court Declines Removing Judge in Terri’s Law Case

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

Appeals Court Declines Removing Judge in Terri’s Law Case

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 10, 2003

Washington, DC ( — A Florida state appeals court has declined to remove the judge who is overseeing the lawsuit filed against Terri’s Law by Terri Schiavo’s estranged husband Michael.

Ken Conner, a pro-life attorney representing Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL), hoped the 2nd District Court of Appeals would remove Circuit Court Judge Douglas Baird from the case.

Conner said Baird is too biased and had already made up his mind about the case when he said Terri’s Law, which allowed Bush to save Terri’s life, was "presumptively unconstitutional." Baird also claimed the law denies Terri’s "constitutional right to privacy."

The comments came before Bush had a chance to present his side of the case that the law is constitutional.

The appellate court disagreed with Bush and said Baird’s comments were not out of line. The three-member court issued a five page decision Wednesday saying Bush’s argument was "legally insufficient to instill a well-founded fear of prejudice or bias."

The appeals court also determined that Baird’s comments were a correct reading of both Florida law or previous court decisions on the Terri Schiavo case.

George Felos, the assisted suicide advocate who is Michael’s attorney, claims Terri’s Law violates Terri’s right to privacy and the separation of powers clause in the state constitution. Felos is receiving legal help from the ACLU in the case.

Governor Bush criticized the appeals court decision, saying in a statement that "it appears the court has determined that prejudging a case before evidence is presented is acceptable in Florida.”

"In our criminal courts, defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty," Bush said. "When evaluating constitutional challenges, the law is presumed constitutional until proven otherwise. In this case, however, the actions of the trial and appellate judges make it clear they presume just the opposite, that the law passed by elected lawmakers must be proven constitutional."

Like Governor Bush, Pat Anderson, the attorney for Terri’s parents, is worried that Baird is too biased to adjudicate the case.

"We are hopeful that Judge Baird has not prejudged the issues, even though his written order from two weeks ago seems to say otherwise," Anderson said.

No indication was given as to whether Bush attorneys will take the appeals court decision to the Florida Supreme Court.

Bush previously filed a motion asking Baird to step down and Baird refused.

Baird has scheduled a hearing for December 19 on a motion filed by Felos to issue summary judgment in the case without a complete trial. Governor Bush wants a full trial to determine whether Terri would have wanted lifesaving medical treatment.

"Because Terri’s life hangs in the balance, we hope the case will receive a full and impartial hearing," Anderson added.

Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents, filed an appeal December 5 in their effort to be named as a party in the Terri’s Law suit. Baird initially denied them standing in the lawsuit, but the Schindlers say they can better defend Terri’s interests by being a part of it.

Related web sites:
Terri Schiavo’s family –