Florida's Bush asks justices to uphold law on brain-damaged woman


TALLAHASSEE - In a last-ditch legal effort, attorneys for Gov. Jeb Bush asked the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday to uphold a Florida law designed to keep a brain-damaged woman alive.

Experts said it was unlikely, however, that the court would agree to hear the case of Terri Schiavo, whose long saga set off an international debate about right-to-die issues last year.

The Florida Supreme Court struck down last month the hastily crafted "Terri's Law," ruling that the Legislature and governor had overstepped their powers on an issue already decided by the courts.

The law allowed the governor to order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube to be reinserted, just six days after her husband, Michael Schiavo, had it removed.

Bush attorney Ken Connor wants the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the governor did not get a fair legal hearing.

"This case has significant and profound implications for people with disabilities," Connor said. "It fails to allow the governor and Legislature to afford protection they deem necessary."

Legal experts say they doubt that the new legal approach will get far. Michael P. Allen, a constitutional law professor at Stetson University, has said there is "nearly zero chance" that the high court will take the case.

George J. Felos, an attorney for Schiavo's husband, dismissed the move as a delaying tactic and a political sham.

"The governor's argument for federal review is so weak it's really hard not to say it's frivolous," Felos said. "He's using every procedural step he can to try to keep Mrs. Schiavo's rights from being carried out."

Michael Schiavo has insisted that his 40-year-old wife, who lapsed into what doctors called "a persistent vegetative state" after her heart stopped in 1990, told him she would not want to live in her current condition.

But her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, insist their daughter could be taught to feed herself and recover.

After Michael Schiavo received a court order granting him the right to remove his wife's food and water tubes in October last year, the Florida Legislature quickly approved "Terri's Law," which gave Bush the power to block the court order.

In his Supreme Court argument, Connor said Terri Schiavo and Bush were effectively denied their day in court because they were not allowed to have a trial on Terri Schiavo's wishes. Connor said the Florida Supreme Court decision upholding the separation of powers between the courts and the Legislature cannot override the federal constitutional right to due process.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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