Huge Win for Terri Schiavo: Court Backs Governor Bush, Terri’s Family

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 13, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Huge Win for Terri Schiavo: Court Backs Governor Bush, Terri’s Family

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 13, 2004

Clearwater, FL ( — The family of Terri Schiavo got its first big break from a court in a long time when the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled Friday that a judge should have allowed Terri’s family defend their daughter in the lawsuit filed against Terri’s Law. The court also said Governor Bush’s attorneys can question witnesses in the case.

According to the appeals court, Circuit Court Judge Douglas Baird should have allowed Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents, to intervene in the lawsuit filed by Terri’s estranged husband Michael seeking to declare Terri’s Law unconstitutional.

Baird "failed to follow the rule that has been established for determining motions to intervene," the appeals court wrote in its opinion. Terri’s family has a monumental interest in defending the law helping their daughter, that the appeals court says should be respected.

Pamela Hennessy, a representative of Terri’s family, said the court ruling "is one step closer to correcting a judicial tyranny."

Terri’s Law is the legislation passed by the Florida state legislature that allowed Governor Jeb Bush to ask doctors to reinsert the feeding tube that is allowing Terri to stay alive.

Pat Anderson, the Schindler’s attorney, told the Associated Press she was "stunned" by the decision because Florida courts have ruled against Terri’s family so many times in the past.

"It’s been three years since the law has been followed in this case,” Anderson said.

The appeals court also ruled that attorneys for Governor Bush who are seeking to defend the pro-life law in court should be able to question witnesses in the case.

"A complete bar to the taking of any depositions may cause harm to" Bush’s attorney’s efforts to defend Terri’s Law. The court wrote that Michael’s attorney George Felos, an assisted suicide advocate, "failed to demonstrate good cause for a blanket ban on the taking of depositions."

Ken Conner, the pro-life attorney who is Bush’s lead counsel, wanted Baird to hold a trial to determine whether Terri would want to remain alive and receive lifesaving medical treatment and rehabilitative therapy.

"Terri Schiavo’s wishes are very much at issue. Terri Schiavo has demonstrated a resolute will to live," Connor said.

Baird should hold further hearings on the lawsuit, the court directed.

Baird previously said he does not need any new information to be able to rule on the constitutionality of Terri’s Law. Felos had asked Baird to not hold a trial and, instead, issue a summary judgment ruling.

If Baird rules the law unconstitutional, Terri’s estranged husband Michael will be able to remove her feeding tube for a third time, possibly causing her death.

"I applaud the Governor and his legal representatives for their persistence in protecting a vulnerable and innocent person," Hennessy said. This is a clear fulfillment of the Governor’s promise to act as a champion for the disabled in Florida."

Terri’s parents are also urging Judge Baird to reappoint the independent guardian who was removed from the case in December. The Schindler family also wants the guardian to be able to determine whether Terri’s marriage to her estranged husband Michael can be dissolved.

Should that happen, Terri’s brother Bobb Schindler, Jr., can be appointed as Terri’s legal guardian and begin making medical care decisions for Terri.

Related web sites:
Decision relating to Terri’s family –,%202004/2D03-5200.pdf
Decision relating to Governor Bush –,%202004/2D03-5783.pdf
Terri Schiavo’s family –