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Fears cancel justice's speech to club

Concerns about security raised during the Schiavo saga prompt Tiger Bay Club to cancel its luncheon.

Published April 12, 2005

Threats of violence during the Terri Schiavo case have prompted the cancellation of a Florida Supreme Court justice's speech to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.

Justice Peggy Quince was worried about live television coverage of her speech and the publicity surrounding her appearance on Friday, said Craig Waters, a Florida Supreme Court spokesman.

"We are much more concerned about security issues at this point in time," he said.

"We got a lot of e-mailed threats during the Schiavo debate, mostly vague threats like "What goes around, comes around."'

Security at the court and around legislators was heightened during the recent Schiavo debate because of protesters who staked out some offices and repeated death threats phoned in to state offices.

The Florida Supreme Court rejected several appeals made by Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to stop the court-ordered removal of her feeding tube.

Schiavo, 41, died March 31 at Woodside Hospice House in Pinellas Park. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, fought a lengthy legal battle to remove the tube, saying his wife would not have wanted to be kept alive through artificial means.

Last year, the state Supreme Court also declared "Terri's law" unconstitutional. It allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to order the reinsertion of her feeding tube after it was removed in 2003.

Tiger Bay Club leaders invited Quince to speak at this month's luncheon in May of last year. She accepted, but was not told at the time that the luncheons are frequently covered by the news media, including live broadcasts on Bay News 9.

Quince found out about the live broadcast last week when she received a confirmation letter from the club.

"She wasn't told until last week that the speech would be broadcast live on television, and that raises security issues even higher," Waters said. "We just don't have enough time right now to make sure she could be secure."

Recent violence against judges and their families also has raised judicial security concerns nationwide. In the past few months, a judge was shot and killed in an Atlanta courtroom and a Chicago judge's family members were killed by a man angered by a court decision.

Waters said Quince also has a "personal preference" not to appear on live television.

Because the Tiger Bay Club has a tradition of allowing the public and the media to attend its meetings, the group's executive committee decided to cancel the luncheon.

"The Club chooses to respect the Justice's request that no television cameras be present, just as it respects all media's right to attend our meetings, which are open to the public," club president Bob Fisher said in a written statement. "With these two rights in conflict, we feel the only choice is to cancel the program."

Founded in 1978, the club holds luncheons that often feature prominent speakers in state or local government or politics. Executive director Tami Simms-Powel said this is the first time she can remember a luncheon being canceled.

[Last modified April 12, 2005, 01:24:13]

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