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The Terri Schiavo Case

Bush, Schiavo's parents win court decisions

A lawyer for the brain-damaged woman's husband calls the appellate court rulings "no-decision decisions."

By Associated Press
Published February 14, 2004

TAMPA - Gov. Jeb Bush and the parents of a severely brain-damaged woman won two appellate court decisions Friday in their quest to keep Terri Schiavo alive.

Last October, after the Legislature passed a law allowing Bush to order the reinsertion of Schiavo's feeding tube, her husband challenged the constitutionality of the law.

In defending the law, Bush wanted to depose seven people, asking that he be allowed to collect evidence and present testimony that would review whether Schiavo would want to be kept alive by artificial means.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird ruled against Bush, saying the depositions were unnecessary because there were no identifiable facts in dispute.

On Friday, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that Baird's reasoning was insufficient, and sent the issue back to his courtroom.

The appeals court also ruled that Baird did not follow judicial rules when he denied Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, the ability to help fight the constitutional challenge to the law.

The appeals court ordered Baird to hold further proceedings on that issue.

The Schindlers' attorney, Pat Anderson, said she was stunned by the rulings, because Florida courts have ruled against her and the Schindlers so many times.

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

She said she expects another hearing on the question of letting the Schindlers be a party to the constitutional case. If they are granted permission, Anderson could file and oppose motions and question witnesses for them.

"We look forward to another opportunity to convince the court that the Schindlers have a legal right to intervene in this case and that their desire to defend Terri's Law meets the standards necessary for the court to grant intervention," said Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, which also represents the Schindlers.

Bush said in a statement that he was pleased with the rulings.

"We are hopeful that when the judge hears these questions, he will allow us the opportunity to gather the facts necessary to defend the constitutionality of the statute," Bush said.

George Felos, attorney for the husband, Michael Schiavo, called the opinions disappointing, but said they were essentially "no-decision decisions." He said they will simply delay consideration of the more important issues of the case.

Felos plans to study the rulings before deciding his next step. He could ask for a rehearing before the appeals court, file a petition with the Florida Supreme Court or continue debating the issues in Circuit Court.

Feedings have been keeping Terri Schiavo alive since 1990, when she suffered brain damage after a potassium imbalance stopped her heart.

Some doctors say the 40-year-old woman, who lives in a Clearwater nursing home, is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

Her husband said she told him before her illness that she would not want to be kept alive under such circumstances. Her parents doubt she had any such end-of-life wishes and believe she could be rehabilitated with therapy. The sides have been battling in court for years.

[Last modified February 14, 2004, 01:31:45]

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