Judge Who Ruled Terri Schiavo Should Die Faces Election Challenge

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 11, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Judge Who Ruled Terri Schiavo Should Die Faces Election Challenge

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
May 11, 2004

Clearwater, FL (LifeNews.com) — One of the circuit court judges who has been at the center of the controversy surrounding Terri Schiavo is facing a challenge in his bid for re-election. Judge George Greer ruled last year that Terri’s estranged husband Michael could remove her feeding tube and now voters will be able to decide if they approve of his decisions in the case.

Just hours before the filing deadline last Friday, Jan Govan, an attorney in Clearwater, Florida, threw his hat in the ring. The race will be Greer’s first since being elected to the judgeship twelve years ago.

While Govan is careful to not directly say that he disagrees with Judge Greer’s decisions in the years-long legal battle over Terri’s life, the case prompted him to run.

"I will serve impartially and without any predisposition," Govan told LifeNews.com in an interview.

Govan told LifeNews.com that Greer’s judicial decision-making progressed to a point where the state legislature had to get involved and authorize Governor Jeb Bush to ask doctors to re-insert Terri’s feeding tube.

"Then I see my courts identify what the legislature and the Governor are doing … as unconstitutional," Govan said. "So now I have a situation where I can’t talk to the court, the legislature’s expression has been denied by the court, and the judicial and legislative systems are at odds. All three branches are at a stalemate."

"This is the least healthy situation I have ever seen in regard to our government," Govan said.

While Terri’s supporters are unable to express their opinion to Judge Greer other than protesting outside his chambers, Govan said his candidacy allows people to express their "passion" about Terri’s plight.

"For quite awhile I would come to my office and see people lined up with signs and flags and different information," Govan explained. His office is located a block away from the courthouse where supporters of Terri have rallied on numerous occasions.

"It’s improper for anyone to speak to a judge, so we don’t have a direct voice," Govan explained. "I want the people who have a passion" to be able to have a choice in the election. Without his candidacy, "the opportunity to vote would have been eliminated."

Pat Anderson, the leading attorney for Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents, tells LifeNews.com that she isn’t surprised by Govan’s candidacy.

"I don’t know this challenger, and as far as I can tell he has no connection to the Schiavo case," Anderson told LifeNews.com. "However, I have heard from a number of people over the last few years about their unhappy experiences in Judge Greer’s courtroom, so I guess it was inevitable that someone would conclude he was vulnerable in this election and decide to run against him."

Govan will have an uphill battle.

According to the Division of Elections at the Florida Department of State, Greer has already amassed more than $55,000 in campaign donations from top area attorneys. Govan has yet to begin fundraising for the August 13 election.

Greer told the St. Petersburg Times newspaper that he was surprised by Govan’s filing but that he would not be "unprepared" to defend his seat on the bench.

Anderson said Govan’s candidacy is good for area residents.

"It takes courage, I’ll tell you that, to challenge a sitting judge," Anderson told LifeNews.com. "The power of incumbency is very powerful, indeed, when you’re talking about judges. But I think it’s a good thing for the voters to have a choice. No public official should take the job for granted."

ACTIONS: To contribute to the campaign of Jan Govan, send a check (not more than $500) to: Jan Govan Campaign Account, 542, Bay Ave., Clearwater, FL 33756. You must include your name, address, and occupation.