Supreme Court Denies Florida Governor's Appeal on Rejection of "Terri's Law," Which Interfered with Medical Decisions

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
January 24, 2005 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Florida
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

Supreme Court Denies Florida Governor’s Appeal on Rejection of “Terri’s Law,” Which Interfered with Medical Decisions


MIAMI — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal of Terri’s Law, which reversed a series of court rulings and interfered with the medical decisions of Terri Schiavo who, the courts found, did not wish to be kept alive artificially.

“With today’s United States Supreme Court rejection of Governor Jeb Bush’s petition for review in the Terri Schiavo case, this chapter in the history of this tragic case comes to an end,” said Randall C. Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida.

The ACLU of Florida entered the litigation following Governor Bush’s request that the Florida Legislature give him the authority to order the re-insertion of the feeding tube — ignoring over six years of court decisions. The ACLU maintained from the beginning that such intrusion was constitutionally impermissible, and that even as the legislature hastily passed “Terri’s Law,” many members had grave doubts that what they were doing was constitutional.

“The Florida Supreme Court’s unanimous rejection of the improper intrusion by the governor and the legislature into the lower court’s decisions regarding Terri Schiavo’s wishes, sustained today by the U.S. Supreme Court, now stands,” Marshall said. “Although today’s decision is not likely to stop further litigation in the guardianship court, it should end interference by Governor Bush and the legislature in the process.”

On August 26th, 2003, Gov. Bush wrote to the judge handling Terri Schiavo’s case stating that “our system of government has committed these decisions to the judicial branch, and we must respect that process.” The governor abandoned that position following an orchestrated campaign by right-to-life activists pressuring the governor to intervene in the case.

The ACLU had joined the case as co-counsel with Mr. Schiavo’s attorney, saying that the unprecedented actions of Florida lawmakers and Governor Jeb Bush to undo decisions by the courts and order the reinsertion of her feeding tubes are violations of Florida’s constitutional right to privacy and an unconstitutional intrusion on judicial authority.

The legal team consists of: George J. Felos, of Felos & Felos, P.A. in Dunedin, Fla., Deborah A. Bushnell, also of Dunedin, Fla., ACLU of Florida Legal Director Randall Marshall, and ACLU of Florida cooperating attorneys: Thomas J. Perrelli and Robert M. Portman of the Washington-based law firm of Jenner & Block LLC

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.