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Gov. Jeb Bush Appeals to Supreme Court Terri Schiavo Ruling

Gov. Bush has asked the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider their decision to declare unconstitutional a law keeping Terri Schiavo on life support.
( [email protected] ) Oct 07, 2004 08:44 PM EDT

In the ongoing legal battle over Terri Schiavo's right to live, attorneys for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have asked the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling that a law designed to keep Terri Schiavo alive is unconstitutional.

In a statement issued by his office on Oct. 4, Bush said he respected the role and the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court, but that he feared the Schiavo ruling could limit the ability of state lawmakers to govern.

Terri Schiavo, the woman at the center of the debate, suffered severe brain damage in 1990 after her heart stopped beating for several minutes. Oxygen was cut off to her brain, leaving her in what doctors call a “persistent vegetative state”. Her husband contends his wife never wanted to be kept alive artificially, but her parents express objection saying Schiavo did not leave any written instructions for such wishes. They also argue that she can be rehabilitated and shows signs of consciousness.

Terri Schiavo’s case began to attract public attention when Michael, who is engaged to and living with another woman, requested permission to end her life via euthanasia by removing her feeding tube six years ago.

Feeding and hydration tubes were removed from Schiavo last October for a second time since her collapse. On Oct. 21, 2003 Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Legislature rushed a special law allowing the tubes to be reconnected.

A lower court ruled that "Terri's Law" violates Florida's right-of-privacy. Other critics say the statute also violates the separation of powers. Meanwhile, Michael continues to appeal Governor Bush’s decision saying that he is fulfilling his wife’s wishes.

The case was finally referred to Florida Supreme Court on August 31, 2004 and the “Terri’s law” was declared unconstitutional on Sept 23.

The 30-page ruling, written by Chief Justice Barbara Pariente, said the Florida legislature improperly delegated power to the governor and the “Terri’s law” violated the separation of powers between the judicial, legislative and executive branches of the state government.

The court ruling did not clearly say how soon Terri Schiavo's feeding tube can be removed. The court did give each side in the dispute 10 days to ask for a rehearing in the case.

Bush’s attorneys have finally responded to the ruling by filing a motion for rehearing on Oct. 4 contending the justices erred in deeming the law unconstitutional.

Kenneth L. Connor, a Tampa, Fla., attorney representing Bush indicated that while the doctrine of separation of powers is critical to the state's system of government it shouldn't be used to undercut the due process rights of governors or lawmakers.

"The manner in which the court applied the separation of powers binds the governor to rulings and cases to which he was never a party," said Kenneth L. Connor. "In doing so, it violated his right to due process."

The court's decisions "have long-term, far-reaching consequences for all Floridians," Bush said in a written statement released Monday. "For this reason, we have asked the court for clarification of its recent ruling."

Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, said the governor's motion didn't raise any new issues and it seemed to be filed only to delay the case.

"It's preposterous to think that the court misunderstood or overlooked the law or the facts in this case, which was so carefully reviewed and scrutinized," Felos said.

At present time, Terri Schiavo, 40, remains in good condition and she is living at a Clearwater nursing home.