Judge in Terri Schiavo Case Had Serious Conflict of Interest

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 19, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Judge in Terri Schiavo Case Had Serious Conflict of Interest Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
May 19, 2005

Clearwater, FL (LifeNews.com) — A federal judge who declined to review the lawsuit Terri Schaivo’s parents filed to prevent her painful 13 day starvation death may have had a conflict of interest.

Federal District Court Judge James Whittemore of Tampa was charged by Congress to take up the case and issue a temporary restraining order preventing Terri’s death. He refused.

However, it appears Judge Whittemore, who became the subject of condemnation from Congressional leaders after his decision, possible should have recused himself from the case.

Whittemore served in the 13th Circuit Court of Hillsborough County, Florida from 1990 to 1999. According to a report in the Empire Journal newspaper, one of the attorneys who formerly represented Terri’s estranged husband Michael had recommended him for that position.

Michael’s former attorney, Constance McCaughey, had been a member of the 13th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission which suggested Whittemore for the circuit court position.

According to the Florida Bar Association, McCaughey served on the judicial nominating commission from 1988 to 1992. She was named commission chairman in 1991.

Not only did McCaughey formerly represent Michael, she is the ex-wife of Michael’s current attorney, euthanasia advocate George Felos.

The Empire Journal reports that McCaughey joined Felos’ law firm in 1997 and helped Michael win a decision allowing him to use the money intended for Terri’s medical care and rehabilitative treatment for hiring an attorney in his bid to end her life.

She also helped Michael win guardianship of Terri and assisted him in filing the petition to remove her feeding tube. McCaughey represented Michael until she divorced Felos in 2001.

President Clinton later nominated Whittemore for the federal judgeship.

Whittemore twice went against Congressional legislation that required halting Terri Schiavo’s painful starvation death. The measure also allowed Terri’s parents to have a complete federal hearing on the merits of their lawsuit, which Judge Whittemore also ruled against.