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Overriding courts in Schiavo case is dangerous

Published October 23, 2003

As a trial attorney with almost 15 years of experience, I followed the Terri Schiavo case first with a general, passing interest in the legal and factual issues it presented. I then slowly became disgusted with the obvious hatred the parties have for one another and the abuse of the legal system that has ensued. As a Republican already agitated over the political grandstanding by some of my party's "leadership," I am angered by the recent bill allowing the governor to override the courts' decisions in the case.

This move is political pandering at the highest level, coming on the heels of what was an exhaustive attempt at legal forum shopping. It amazes me that the conservatives who always preach about "less government" never hesitate to expand the role of government when it supports their agenda (or their bid for re-election, with the lines between the two becoming increasingly blurred). Essentially, our legislative leaders, whose contempt for lawyers and the legal system is no secret, don't like the outcome of the case, so they crafted legislation to override it. Are these really the floodgates they want to open? Or will they be selective in the gates unlocked, lest they, too, be washed away in the torrent?

Republican leaders reportedly are not happy with the way the judge handled the case. I have litigated before Judge George Greer many times and know him to be a fair, balanced and thoughtful judge; I have no doubt that he was true to form when he considered the complex, conflicting evidence and emotional aspects of the case. Apparently, the 2nd District Court of Appeal felt the same way when it affirmed his decisions. Then a federal district court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over a state court matter (not on an appeal, mind you, but on a separate case based on the same facts); then a circuit court judge in Tallahassee dismissed the Writ of Mandamus, ruling that Gov. Jeb Bush had no legal authority or responsibility to act; and a separate appellate court affirmed this decision.

I certainly have no objection to our Legislature addressing significant, compelling issues in a deliberate, thoughtful manner, but I take umbrage when it chooses political expediency time and time again. These folks felt no need to address this issue during the past 13 years until they felt the heat - then it became important to them.

This case is no doubt a heartbreaking one that has cast light on a very important issue, and I cannot imagine the physical and emotional stress experienced by both sides. Yet, while our legislators could use the case as a basis for a law covering future situations, creating a law that also retroactively applies to this case sets a dangerous precedent.

-- Nicholas L. Ottaviano, Trinity

Let the parents be her guardians

Since Terri's law has been enacted in Florida, it's now time to give guardianship to her parents. Let Terri live out her life as she should with no more interference from her husband. He will be a better person if he will just "let go and let God take care of her!"

-- Rebecca Bandy, Safety Harbor

What about our state's tragedy?

I have watched and listened to what has been going on in Tallahassee with the Terri Schiavo case, and it is absolutely disgusting. Gov. Jeb Bush and those following him have no business interfering with this case. It has been through the legal system for years and enough is enough. They have crossed the line and sold out any shred of integrity they may have still had by using an emotional situation like this to further their political careers. I hear the comments asking who is helping this girl and that they are just responding to a tragic situation.

Well, Florida is a tragic situation. From education to health care, this place is a disaster. But it will take better individuals than the ones wasting time in Tallahassee to do something. They pass an unconstitutional law, get their names in the paper, and when the courts step in again they can portray themselves as heroes. I guess they can wait for the next special session to get something done.

-- Troy Krotz, Belleair Bluffs

Too loose with "extremist' label

Not knowing all the details and realizing there are two sides to every story, I hadn't made up my mind on the Terri Schiavo issue. Then the attorney for the husband made up my mind for me. On the evening news I heard him remark that the people who were in favor of Terri's feeding tube and IV being reinserted were Terri's family and "extremists."

How low can you go? Preserving a woman's life by not starving her has become extreme? Why isn't it characterized as an opposing viewpoint in a life-and-death struggle? Should the attorney be characterized as a monstrous puppeteer trying to orchestrate a legal killing? The way this "officer of the court" pins labels on opponents, I guess what's fair is fair. Shame on him (if that's possible).

And do the members of the state Legislature note that this labeling paints them with the same brush - as a body of "extremists"?

-- John Rawinski, New Port Richey

A poor use of state funds

I am really confused here. Our governor has taken the very expensive and bold move to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case by overriding our judicial system and creating his own laws - at taxpayer expense. Whether you are for or against the case, why can we not funnel these monies to our schools to help our children rather than to distort our judicial system and waste more money?

As a teacher in Pasco County, I have a difficult time getting quality books, workbooks and supplies for my special ed classroom, yet what it cost to pass this bill could supply the needs of my students for at least a full year. Think about it. A quality classroom for our future leaders or wasted money for an invalid unable to care for herself. I choose the former because I feel their future is much brighter. Why is Bush going there anyway? I think we should follow California's lead and recall this maligned and arrogant governor. Hasn't he made us suffer enough?

-- Gregory R. Sytch, New Port Richey

Lawmakers did it for Terri

Re: Another indignity, editorial, Oct, 22.

Your liberal paper says the effort to save Terri Schiavo is "political opportunism." We say it is "life!"

Thank God for a Legislature that will do the right thing, even if it is or is not "politically correct."

How do you know lawmakers' motives? Are you God? I don't care what their motives were, Terri is alive now!

Leave the motives to them. You know there are people that really believe in "the right to life," unlike the Times. I chose to believe they did it for Terri - not politics. Only God can judge.

Thank you, Florida Legislature! You are all our heroes. And thanks to Gov. Jeb Bush for doing the right thing.

-- Carole Hawver, Palm Harbor

Backward governing

Re: Another indignity, editorial.

As we remember learning in our high school civics class many years ago, our federal and most of our state constitutions provide for three branches of government. They are the executive (president or governor), the legislative (senators and representatives) and the judicial (our court system).

The judicial branch exists to oversee the legislative and executive branches - not the other way around. Why then are Gov. Jeb Bush and most of the legislators able to override the many years of thoughtful judicial rulings and pass a last-minute law to keep Terri Schiavo alive despite expert testimony that she has been and will remain in a vegetative state for the rest of her life? How many people would wish to be kept alive in her condition? I doubt many.

-- Glenn and Kay Paul, Indian Rocks Beach

Err on the side of life

Thanks to Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature for doing the right thing by allowing Terri Schiavo to not die by dehydration.

We've all made decisions in our lives that we might retract if given the opportunity. If Terri said she would not want to live in a vegetative state, maybe she is now applauding the decision to allow her to live. I think God is applauding the decision also. However, absent a written living will, it should not be left to others to decide for her.

Now, maybe we can concentrate on how to improve Terri's health as is being done for Christopher Reeve. I believe he will walk again and, I believe that all things are possible and that Terri may resume a more normal life if given the opportunity.

It's too bad that everything has to be politicized and with so many Democrats voting against the law, it only reinforces why I choose to be a Republican. We're far from perfect, but we are humane and caring. That is not to say that all who would pull her feeding tube are inhumane, but to err on the side of life is the right thing to do.

-- Frank B. Hill, Homosassa

The life of the soul

I really wonder about the faith of Terri Schiavo's parents. My Christian faith tells me that the life of the soul is beautiful and goes on after the death of the body. The real essence that was Terri goes on. I would hate for my soul to be trapped in a dying body because my family needed to see me to believe that I lived on. Not everyone believes in this faith, but I think Mr. and Mrs. Schiavo profess to the Catholic faith.

I know that the loved ones I have lost are very much with me in spirit! I will pray for this knowledge to come to comfort the Schiavos.

-- Eleanor Hobbs, Port Richey

Ideological arrogance

It is ironic that our governor - the one who believes in the sanctity of marriage and presumably the scriptural injunction that, "two shall become one flesh" - has seen fit to intervene in the marriage of Terri and Michael Schiavo. With one stroke of the pen, he has overruled Michael's right to honor his wife's wishes not to be maintained in a vegetative state and deprived Terri of her right to live and die with dignity. Once again, the governor has demonstrated his propensity for ideological arrogance in callously dismissing the wishes of the two halves of this union. Evidently, what God has joined together only Jeb Bush can put asunder.

-- Rob McMahon, Safety Harbor

A tangled web of contradictions

The party that touts family values refuses to allow a husband to implement the decision his wife wanted. The party that wants big government out of our lives is now practicing medicine. This party's members are also refusing to allow the God they so readily quote take Terri Schiavo home. What a tangled web of contradictions they do weave.

-- Alice P. Williams, Sun City Center

Make sure you have a living will

Let the fate of Terri Schiavo remind all adults of legal age: If you have not yet signed a living will expressing your personal choice, please do so promptly! Ask for a Living Will form at any hospital and make certain you sign and file it with your legal documents in your home, safe, or with your attorney. Without such documentation, you are at the mercy of others, assuming you have insurance coverage to meet it.

-- Barbara Ahigian, Madeira Beach

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[Last modified October 23, 2003, 01:33:54]


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