Thursday, September 23, 2004

Florida Supreme Court Rules Against "Terri's Law"

Today the Florida Supreme Court handed down their ruling on the constitutionality of "Terri's Law", the law passed last October by the Florida Legislature which gave Govenor Bush the power to intervene to save Terri's life.

Unfortunately, as I speculated before, this is pretty much the outcome I expected. It was clear from the questioning of the Supreme Court justices that they had pretty much made up their minds about the case.

You can get the ruling yourself here (Adobe PDF file). Thanks to Amy Welborn for finding the link to the case file.

I have only quickly skimmed through the ruling, but it seems to rest on the legal issues I have identified before, namely:

Separation of powers: In our system of government, the functions of the Executive branch, the Courts, and the Legislature are clearly delineated. Except when judges legislate from the bench by discovering new rights in the Constitution which the framers somehow forgot to spell out. But that's OK because it's judges who are doing it, and judges are really smart, and, after all, they really know best. In this case, it means that only judges get to make life or death decisions regarding helpless women who can't speak for themselves.

Irreviewability Of Judicial Decisions of Fact: The Supreme Court recites Judge Greer's decisions of fact, such as that Terri is in a Persistent Vegetative State, as gospel. Ditto for the judge's ruling, based on husband Michael's testimony and not much else, that Terri wouldn't have wanted to go on living like this. The Schindler's and Governor Bush have repeatedly asked for new hearings to review thses and other issues, citing new evidence and ample reason to suspect that evidence was not fairly considered before, but have been rebuffed.

This decision strengthens the ability of judges to make rulings of fact without fear of review or appeal. Judges' rulings of fact are now virtually incapable of being reviewed in Florida. In other words, a judge could, for all intents and purposes, rule that the sky is green. And once he has done so, you can point to the sky all you want and say it's blue, and it won't matter a whit to the courts.

I hope to post more later, when I have time to go through the ruling in greater depth, and if I can reach the Schindlers to get their reactions.