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Schiavo Law Puts Heat On Politics ^ | October 24, 2003 | WILLIAM MARCH

Posted on 10/23/2003 6:32:50 AM PDT by Pan_Yans Wife

Scholars denounced the Legislature's hastily enacted Terri Schiavo bill Wednesday as a violation of the separation of government powers and called it ``profoundly unconstitutional,'' in the words of one. But legal experts representing right-to-life and religious conservative groups defended the bill as an emergency measure to save the life of an incapacitated woman whose wishes and interests are in doubt.

The legislation passed Tuesday let Gov. Jeb Bush order the replacement of Schiavo's feeding tube in a Clearwater nursing home despite years of court rulings supporting her husband's claim that she didn't want to be kept alive in such fashion.

Beyond rousing division among lawyers, academics and the general public, the move roused charges of political pandering in the Legislature, even from Republicans who voted for the bill.

Those charges focused on House Speaker Johnnie Byrd of Plant City, the driving force behind the legislation and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Bob Graham.

Byrd, who denies acting for political reasons, is running in a primary field dominated by social conservatives seeking the support of social conservatives.

``It's a sad, sad day when someone politicizes someone else's tragedy and pain for political gain,'' said state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla of Miami, referring to his fellow Republican Byrd.

The action by lawmakers and the governor stirred more emotion among the public, with some echoing the charge of political expedience and others praising the bill.

``Nothing more than political grandstanding ... a cheap and easy way to look good to the public,'' declared businessman J. Jay Schwartz of Oldsmar, one of more than 500 people who sent e-mail to late Tuesday and Wednesday responding to the case.

The rush of reaction was too much to tabulate, said Peter Howard of But some said Bush and the Legislature pandered to the religious right - ``zealots and fanatics,'' in the words of Hudson's Todd King - and others backed the politicians.

``I praise God that her life has been spared ... since she could not speak for herself at this time in her life,'' said Cherron Douglas, 53, of Zephyrhills. With no living will, she said, ``There was nothing to substantiate what her husband said were her wishes.''

Emily Foster, 17, a home- schooled high school senior from Temple Terrace, said Schiavo's parents, who oppose ending her life support, should have more say.

``It wasn't right that the husband had complete guardianship and the parents had no rights,'' Foster said.

Legal Arguments

Among the experts, constitutional scholar Joseph Little of the University of Florida called the bill ``very profoundly unconstitutional, the most egregious bill that's been passed and enacted by the governor that I remember.''

Little said it authorizes Bush to override Schiavo's civil liberties, forcing her to accept medical treatment against what judges have ruled are her wishes.

``In our system of government, if the government wants to do something to you, they've got to have a warrant, probable cause or some evidence - none of which they have in this case,'' he said.

Michael Allen, who teaches constitutional law at Stetson University, said legislators overrode the courts.

``The Legislature and the governor have looked at a judgment in a civil case, determined they think it's not correct and acted to reverse that judgment,'' he said. ``What would stop them from doing the same in any civil case?''

But Mathew Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, an advocacy group that argues for conservative causes, said the bill shouldn't raise such concerns.

``In this case under this limited set of facts, I support it,'' he said. The Schiavo case ``sort of fell between the cracks of existing Florida law. I don't think this will open up a parade of horribles'' - meaning a string of undesirable consequences - ``enabling the governor to interfere with other private end-of-life decisions.''

Ken Connor, former state and national president of Right To Life, said the bill doesn't violate the separation of powers. He said it's common for legislators to pass ``remedial or corrective'' laws in response to court rulings.

In Florida, he added, the Supreme Court is required to review any case that imposes the death penalty.

``In this case, the judge's order is the functional equivalent of a death penalty, but the Supreme Court declined to review it,'' Connor said. ``Why would Terri Schiavo be entitled to fewer protections?''

Former Florida Chief Justice Gerald Kogan said ``remedial or corrective'' legislation involves changing existing law, but in this case the Legislature overrode a provision of the Florida Constitution. Florida's right-to-privacy amendment was held by the Supreme Court in 1990 to grant individuals the right to have a feeding tube removed.

Political Maneuvers

The Schiavo case has led to national publicity for Florida reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election recount.

On Tuesday night, Byrd and state Sen. Dan Webster of Winter Garden, one of Byrd's two leading opponents in the Republican Senate primary, spoke about the case on separate national television shows.

By then the bill's passage had reopened bitter divisions that arose this year between the Byrd-led House and the more moderate Senate led by Republican Jim King of Jacksonville.

King said he first heard of Byrd's plans to seek the Schiavo legislation in a call from a reporter Sunday. By Monday there was talk of a sweeping bill, a moratorium on removal of feeding tubes in any case of a patient with no living will.

King, who worked on Florida laws allowing removal of terminal patients from life support, wouldn't accept it. After a day of intense pressure from Byrd allies and right-to- life groups, King said he would accept legislation written so narrowly that it could apply only to Schiavo.

Byrd's campaign staff issued a news release late Monday saying he would appear that night on Fox News' ``Hannity & Colmes'' show. But he kept the House in session late Monday night to pass a bill with the same limitations outlined by King. That delayed his TV appearance until Tuesday - and led some senators to grumble that Byrd had appropriated the Senate bill to get credit for it.

``Make no mistake about it: The concept and the moxie for this legislation started here in the Senate,'' King said Tuesday. Webster became the sponsor of the Senate version, putting him into the spotlight along with his rival Byrd.

Reporter Allison North Jones contributed to this report. Reporter William March can be reached at (813) 259-7761.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events; US: Florida
KEYWORDS: bush; constitution; court; florida; governor; greer; legislature; republicans; schiavo; schindler; terri

1 posted on 10/23/2003 6:32:51 AM PDT by Pan_Yans Wife
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To: Pan_Yans Wife
Hmmm... isn't this exactly what checks and balances are for?????????????????????

When a law is stupid, a president (governor) does not have to sign it (can veto it). When a law is passed it can be declared unconsitutional. If a judge makes a dumbassed decision, why can't a new law be put in place to correct the judge? THIS is why there is a system of checks and balances (unlike what I heard said on the Hannity radio show and again on Fox news last night by "the Judge" who said judges shouldn't be overruled).
2 posted on 10/23/2003 7:16:39 AM PDT by Rick.Donaldson
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To: Rick.Donaldson
Are you suggesting that someone petition the courts and that the courts could then find "Terri's Bill" unconstitutional?
3 posted on 10/23/2003 7:23:49 AM PDT by Pan_Yans Wife (You may forget the one with whom you have laughed, but never the one with whom you have wept.)
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To: Pan_Yans Wife
No, not at all. I was suggesting that a judge shouldn't be making laws, nor making decisions that force people to take others off of feeding tubes. I am completely against that.

I think the legislature did the RIGHT thing. They CHECKED and BALANCED a judge (or several judges in this case). In fact, the lady wasn't on "life support", thus any of this "life support" and "being removed from" is nothing but nonsense.

This opens it up for anyone who has a mentally retarded child to "stop feeding and giving them water" to allow them to die! Come on!
4 posted on 10/23/2003 8:05:07 AM PDT by Rick.Donaldson
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To: Rick.Donaldson; Pan_Yans Wife; tutstar
link to current concerns:Regret Plagues King after Schiavo Vote (poor baby).

An "If the man has so much trouble making up his mind and sticking by it, then he shouldn't be in office" bump into '04.

5 posted on 02/11/2004 11:41:01 AM PST by cyn (
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