Skip to comments.Judge in Life or Death Case Considered Conservative, Compassionate (Terri Schiavo Case)
Posted on 10/25/2003 9:46:41 AM PDT by kattracks
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (AP) - Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer has been called a murderer and equated with the Roman governor who condemned Jesus to death. He has been vilified in Internet chat rooms and has received death threats by e-mail.
Greer is the judge who granted Terri Schiavo's husband permission to remove her feeding tube in one of the longest and most contentious right-to-life battles. His decision was second-guessed and essentially overridden by the Florida Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush last week.
Following judicial code of conduct, Greer has been silent about the public debate over the Schiavo case and the criticism he has faced. He declined a request for an interview.
But those who know the 61-year-old probate judge say he is a prudent jurist who probably agonized over his decisions.
"He is such a good and decent man and to have this kind of rap being put on him right now is so unfair," said Mary Repper, a political strategist who has helped Greer's campaigns. "If ever this was to be put into the hands of someone who is going to be fair and do the right thing, George was the right person."
Through four years of hearings and legal wrangling, Greer considered Michael Schiavo's request to remove his severely brain-damaged wife's feeding tube against the wishes of her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.
A heart attack in 1990 left Terri Schiavo, now 39, in a persistently vegetative state and court-appointed doctors believe there is no hope of recovery. Greer ruled Michael Schiavo showed "clear and convincing" evidence his wife did not want to be kept alive artificially and permitted him to end her nourishment.
The extraordinary reversal of his ruling by Bush and the Legislature will now become the central issue in a new legal fight over the separation of powers that will be waged to overturn what's now known as "Terri's Law."
While Greer has become a key figure in the international news event, few outside of Pinellas County know the man who friends describe as conservative, religious and particularly sensitive to protecting the disabled.
Greer is legally blind and cannot drive. While his condition doesn't hamper his abilities on the bench, colleagues and others said in interviews last week it gives him a perspective in dealing with the rights of the impaired few jurists have.
"He is so conscientious anyway, you put a case involving human life in front of him and it makes him even more careful," said Ed Armstrong, a Clearwater attorney who describes Greer as his mentor. "It's been an ordeal for him too."
Greer is a member of a conservative Baptist church which recently advocated keeping Terri Schiavo alive in a church newsletter. A moderate Republican, Greer served on the Pinellas County Commission for eight years before running unopposed for a circuit judgeship in 1992.
Repper and former Pinellas County Commissioner Charles Rainey said the fact that no one opposed the quiet, studious Greer speaks volumes for how well he is regarded in Pinellas County.
"He's doing what the law says to do. I am sure he struggles with himself, knowing George," Rainey said. "The man did everything he was asked to do as far as checking out the case, checking out the medical situation and he did it two or three times."
Greer is known for answering his own telephone in chambers and until recently being easily accessible to the press, characteristics that his friends say are holdovers from his days of being an elected official.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Greer graduated from Clearwater High School. He graduated from the University of Florida law school and was a successful zoning attorney in Clearwater when he was elected to the county commission in 1984. He been a judge since 1992 and is up for re-election next year.
Michael Schiavo first asked the probate court for permission to disconnect his wife's feeding tube in 1998, saying his wife had told him that she never wanted to be kept alive artificially. Her parents disagree. Two other judges handled the case before it was passed to Greer.
Greer turned down repeated requests from the Schindlers to order therapy for their daughter or to dismiss Michael Schiavo as her guardian. Just this week, Greer set a hearing in November, nearly a year after the Schindlers' last motion for a new guardian, to discuss that issue.
The Schindlers' attorneys attempted to have Greer removed from the case in recent weeks, saying he had improperly discussed the case with others. An appeals court decided Greer would stay.
The Schiavo case is not the only time Greer has been faced with the issue of removing a feeding tube from a vegetative patient. In 2000, the wife and grown children of St. Petersburg attorney Blair Clark faced off in Greer's courtroom after Clark collapsed from a heart attack.
Clark had a living will which said he did not want a feeding tube or respirator if he was determined to be in a permanent vegetative state. But his Chinese-born wife - who disputed her husband was vegetative and believed he could hear her - wanted to try acupuncture and medical techniques from her homeland.
Greer allowed an acupuncturist to administer a treatment session, and then granted Clark's children permission to withdraw their father's feeding tube. Clark's wife did not appeal the decision.
Clark died within days of the tube's removal.
"He was sympathetic and empathetic to the fact that we had somebody who in her culture believed in these alternative methods," said Doug Williamson, who represented the Clark children.
William Mayhew, who represented Clark's wife Ping, said he too believes Greer simply followed the law.
"Many judges would have figured out a way to dump (the Schiavo) case," said Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice, Greer's friend for more than 20 years. "But he stuck by it. He deserves a medal for enduring that alone."
Judge Greer is blind, so he cannot actually see Terri responding to her parents.
Judge Greer allowed a woman in another case to try therapy. In all the years this case has been before him, why not allow limited therapy in Terri's case also?
DEFAMATION -- LIBEL: In Florida, Plaintiff Must Prove Falsity
Third District Court of Appeal ^ | March 28, 2003 | COURT OF APPEAL OF FLORIDA, THIRD DISTRICT
Posted on 10/25/2003 12:22 PM EDT by Notwithstanding
Next, in Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. v. Hepps, 475 U.S. 767, 89 L. Ed. 2d 783, 106 S. Ct. 1558 (1986), the court found that at least where a media defendant is concerned, an actionable statement on matters of public concern must be provable as false by the plaintiff before there can be liability under state defamation law. The Hepps court limited its holding to cases involving media defendants and left open the question of the standard for non-media private defendants raising statements of public concern about public figures. n9 This is precisely the issue presented here. That is, this case raises the question of the applicable [*480] standard for an alleged defamed public official by a private defendant on matters of great public concern.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Footnotes - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
n9 See Hepps, 475 U.S. at 779 n.4.
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In the absence of any direct precedent from either the United States Supreme Court or Supreme Court of Florida on this issue, I believe that at the very minimum, the standard set forth in the New York Times [**21] line of cases, requiring actual malice, must govern. See Milkovich, 497 U.S. at 20 n.6 ("prior to Hepps, . . . where public official or public figure plaintiffs were involved, the New York Times rule already required a showing of falsity before liability could result." (citations omitted)).
Since actual malice requires more than the mere publication of a falsity, I believe that footnote 6 of the majority's opinion is misplaced. The ultimate issue here is not whether Horan's statements were false, but rather whether Horan knew or "recklessly disregarded" that his statements were false. See Nodar, 462 So. 2d at 806. Thus, it is not necessary, or even desirable, for Barnes to subpoena and depose the attorneys and sitting judges in Monroe County. n10 Moreover, the results of the "opinion poll," embraced by the majority, could not reliably discern the truth or falsity of Horan's assertions regarding Monroe County's judges' and lawyers' opinions of Barnes as a lawyer and/or candidate. See, e.g., Ollman v. Evans, 242 U.S. App. D.C. 301, 750 F.2d 970, 1006 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (a community's opinion of a plaintiff's stature [**22] in the community is incapable of being adjudicated with any expectation of accuracy). (Bork, J., concurring). Accordingly, I believe that such discovery is impermissible and should not be allowed to take place.
Barnes v. Horan, 841 So. 2d 472, 479-480 (Fla. App. , 2002)
Foremost, we think Hepps [ Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. v. Hepps, 475 U.S. 767, 106 S. Ct. 1558, 89 L. Ed. 2d 783 (1986)] stands for the proposition that a statement on matters of public concern must be provable as false before there can be liability under state defamation law, at least in situations, like the present, where a media defendant is involved. (footnote omitted) Thus, unlike the statement, "In my opinion Mayor Jones is a liar," the statement, "In my opinion Mayor Jones shows his abysmal ignorance by accepting the teachings of Marx and Lenin," would not be actionable. Hepps ensures that a statement of opinion relating to matters of public concern which does not contain a provably false factual connotation will receive full constitutional protection (footnote omitted).
Next, the Bresler-Letter Carriers-Falwell [**13] line of cases provide protection of statements that cannot "reasonably (be) interpreted as stating actual facts" about an individual. Falwell, 485 U.S., at 50. This provides assurance that public debate will not suffer for lack of "imaginative expression" or the "rhetorical hyperbole" which has traditionally added much to the discourse of our Nation. See id., at 53-55.
The New York Times-Butts and Gertz culpability requirements further ensure that debate on public issues remains "uninhibited, robust, and wide-open," New York Times, 376 U.S., at 270. Thus, HN6where a statement of "opinion" on a matter of public concern reasonably implies false and defamatory facts regarding public figures or officials, those individuals must show that such statements were made with knowledge of their false implications or with reckless disregard of their truth. Similarly, where such a statement involves a private figure on a matter of public concern, a plaintiff must show that the false connotations were made with some level of fault as required by Gertz.
Milkovich, 110 S. Ct. at 2707. Thus, in the instant case [**14] assuming medical costs and insurance are a subject of public concern, which we concede they are, if the statements are capable of being proved false, they are not protected.
Florida Medical Center, Inc. v. New York Post Co., 568 So. 2d 454, 458 (Fla. App. , 1990)
Excerpted - click for full article ^
If George Jones is still alive and John Smith has never even been in the same state as George, you can not post "John Smith killed George Jones" without subjecting yourself to a defamation action.
If George Jones is still alive but John Smith is purposefully seeking to have George's respirator turned off - and the case is widely reported in the news and all three branches of government have taken action on the issue - then you can post "John Smith is a murdering SOB" on a forum that notes on every page that all posts are opinions of the authors - without fear of losing any defamation claim.
Not necessarily. My husband is legally blind, has not driven for 10 years, but has about 10 degrees of vision correctable to 20-25...he would be able to see the videos just fine. The designation "legally blind" doesn't always mean totally blind.
Doesn't sound at all like some folks here have been describing him, huh?
These two items are contradicted by the video which clearly shows her to be brain damaged, but not vegetative, and the belief by many that she could be taught to swallow if rehabilitation had not been denied by her husband. This whole case reeks of decaying slime and any objective observer who looks at the video or studies statements by her parents or her caregivers would conclude there is another side that is being ignored by the court and the press. With the unresolved issues of her condition being debated, why not err on the side of caution and let her live in the care of her willing and loving parents? It's obvious that national anti-life and media forces are determined to treat this innocent women with less compassion than they give a convicted, cold-blooded killer. A very sad commentary on the state of our society today.
My point was that Judge Greer might be able to see well enough to view a video while being legally blind.
Is admissability (is that a word ;-) an issue here? I thought that only applied to criminal trials. I don't think there's a jury involved here...just a hearing in front of a judge. I too cannot understand the rulings in this case.
Nope, the Ministers of Propaganda in the Culture of Death mainstream media never paint proponents of their Culture of Death in a bad light, no matter how radical they are in trying to murder the innocent and defenseless.
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