Saturday, March 12, 2005

Terri Schiavo's Last Days. The judge in Penellas County Florida, Judge Greer, who originally determined that Terri Schaivo (1) is in a "persistent vegetative state" and (2) would have refused nutrition and hydrataion in such a circumstance, has ruled that her feeding tube be withdrawn on March 18. This after years of litigation first initiated by her husband. (He initiated the litigation not immediately after she was stricken but only years later, when it became convenient for Mr. Schiavo to recall some casual remarks that he said Terri, who had been raised a Catholic, made about end-of-life issues.)

The chorus of protest against Judge Greer's original ruling approaches a crescendo, and arrayed against the chorus are the usual suspects, including but not limited to the mainstream media, the judiciary, substantially consisting of the lawyers now in their 50's who grew up during the 60's, and the ruling organs of the legal profession, similarly dominated.

The Vatican agrees that "extraordinary means" should not be employed to prolong life, but its spokesmen insist that "food, water, and warmth" are "ordinary means", not "extraodinary means". To withdraw "ordinary means", then, is euthenasia in the Vatican's view. It is important to note that a Vatican spokesman this week specifically refers to the Schiavo case.

In legal circles over the past few months, I have attended three speeches by judges and lawyers defending the concept of an "independent judiciary". The Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court spoke on this subject at a general meeting of the Dade County Bar Association about two months ago. A few weeks later I heard David Boies, the NY trial lawyer who represented the government against Microsoft in the anti-trust case and Gore against Bush in the Presidential election cases, speak on the same subject. And two weeks ago I heard the Associate Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, give a similar speech. The frequency with which I am hearing this sort of thing, and reading about it, indicates that the ruling elites see themselves under significant pressure from the the electoral majority as the decisions of the judiciary seem to be increasingly unpopular, a judiciary that relies on the endorsement by MSM as a sort of bulwark, a bulwark that itself has taken some severe hits in the past few years.

Jeb Bush and his allies in the Florida legislature have not given up. Go to to see the latest developments in the Florida legislature. (This website has a number of other good resources, including PDF copies of Judge Greer's orders, appeals court decisions, briefs and other materials.)

And an effort is mounting in Congress as well. One of them is a bill that would extend the right of habeas corpus to people in Terri's situation. How ironic that our legal system takes such care before it allows the execution of the death penalty on convicted murderers, and yet it directs that Terri be killed on the basis of hearsay evidence from an unfaithful husband who finds her existence inconvenient.

I don't know whether Terri will be killed. (I fear that she will.) But I think that her case may have far reaching consequences on the way we deal with the judiciary. I think the alarm in which the ruling elites view the pressure on the judiciary is appropriate.

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