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Where a culture of life should be cultivated, "a culture of obstructionism" may have carried the day. Some of our activist judges may have seized upon the Terri Schiavo case to stage a political power play.
A Culture of Obstructionism
-- by Robert M. Liu
The fact that so much media attention was riveted on Terri Schiavo's fate till the last moment of her life that came in late March 2005 after her feeding tube was removed on Florida judge George Greer's order suggests that the public cared a lot about Terri Schiavo and her family.
Many (including Rev. Jesse Jackson and former Clinton White House legal advisor Lanny Davis) disagree with Judge Greer's decision and believe that a common-sense solution would have granted Terri's parents permission to take care of her.
Needless to say, many people sympathize with Terri's biological parents, Mr. and Mrs. Schindler, who had begged to take care of their brain-damaged daughter but was let down by America's court system despite intervention from the Florida legislature, Governor Jeb Bush, the White House, and Congress.
Democratic partisans say Government shouldn't have got involved in the Terri Schiavo case because it is a simple family matter. By "Government", they mean the White House, Congress, the Florida legislature, and Governor Jeb Bush. What about the Court? Apparently, they forget that one of the three branches of U.S. government is the Court and that the Court was the first to get involved in the case.
I wish Judge Greer had ruled as follows: "Well, this is a simple family matter. Government shouldn't get involved. So the status quo prevails. If Mr. Schiavo is dissatisfied with the status quo, he is free to hand over legal guardianship of his wife to her biological parents. Court adjourned!" That would have spared the public and the Schindlers in particular a lot of agony.
Democratic partisans also say the White House and Congress shouldn't have interfered with the judicial branch's workings because the Court is an independent institution. If so, one would ask why the Court has the privilege to interfere with the executive branch's and the legislative branch's decisions.
These days, it is not unusual to hear judges declare some White House or Congressional decision "unconstitutional" -- an indication that judges certainly believe they have the right to interfere. Let's call such "interference" the checks and balances between the three branches of U.S. government.
The problem is: While judges can interfere with the operations of the executive branch and the legislative branch, the executive and legislative branches don't seem to have effective "checks and balances" to prevent judges from running amuck. As we can see, when judges lose common sense, America's "rule of law" could assume the appearance of "a dictatorship by judges".
In my opinion, the issue is not whether the White House and Congress should or should not have intervened in the Terri Schiavo case. The issue is: Who is right and who is wrong. Should Terri's parents have had permission to take care of their own daughter? If you have a daughter in a vegetative state, don't you think you have the right to take care of her?
In other words, if Judge Greer's decision to put Terri Schiavo to death was wrong, then, both the White House and Congress have certainly done the right thing in trying to have Terri's feeding tube re-inserted. On the other hand, if you believe Terri's "death sentence" was correctly executed, you would naturally see the White House and Congress in the wrong.
Here are some of the basic facts of the Terri Schiavo case to help you judge Judge Greer's ruling:
(1) Terri Schiavo (born in 1963) suffered a severe heart attack in the early 1990s which left her in a vegetative state. Her brain was damaged but was alive enough to keep her internal organs such as her heart functioning. This may have been due to her young age. (Her young body may have retained enough vitality to allow her to continue to live for years if her feeding tube had not been removed.)
(2) In 1993, Terri's husband (Michael Schiavo) won financial compensation from a medical mal- practice law-suit.
(3) Then, as Terri's legal guardian, Michael Schiavo wanted Terri's feeding tube removed, claiming that Terri had said she wouldn't want to be kept alive artificially.
(4) During the fact-finding stage, Judge Greer also heard Michael's brother and sister-in-law's testimony to the same effect.
(5) Judge Greer found such hearsay testimony 100% reliable and ordered Terri's feeding tube removed.
(6) America's court system also found such hearsay testimony 100% reliable despite dissenting judges' opinions.
Now, while it is possible that Terri Schiavo did say that she would not want to be kept alive artificially, I for one cannot be 100% sure that she did, given the fact that there is no notarized written statement by Terri Schiavo to that effect.
Besides, some experts say that Terri Schiavo was unable to feel the pain of dying from starvation. If that is the case, then, she couldn't have felt the agony of living in a vegetative state, either. So, why bother to end her non-existent pain or agony when her parents were begging to take care of her?
If Terri Schiavo had been in a criminal court facing a 12-member jury, her parents and their lawyers would almost certainly have created enough "reasonable doubt" in the jurors' minds to make a unanimous verdict and a "death sentence" unlikely. In fact, they have created more than enough "reasonable doubt" in the public. Hence, all this media attention.
Unfortunately, Terri was not a criminal, and there was no jury. The only person that counted in the case was Judge Greer, in whose mind, there was absolutely no doubt whatsoever about Terri's "will to die". Nor did he give any humanitarian or moral consideration to the fact that Terri's elderly parents were begging for permission to take care of her. And most importantly, once "the findings of fact" were determined by Judge Greer, no other judges in the system would want to change them.
The Terri Schiavo case is not a political issue, but the specter of politics looms large over her hospice bed. Namely, where a culture of life should be cultivated, "a culture of obstructionism" may have carried the day. That is, some of our activist judges may have seized upon the Terri Schiavo case as an opportunity to stage their political power play by making their anti-Bush protest loud and clear.
In 2004, Florida Governor Jeb Bush had the state legislature pass "Terri's law" so that he could order Terri's feeding tube to be re-inserted. But the notoriously left-wing judges of the Florida Supreme Court declared "Terri's law" "unconstitutional", thereby successfully obstructing the re- insertion of Terri's feeding tube.
In March 2005, Congress passed legislation to enable Terri's parents to bring their case to a federal court, hoping some judge would order Terri's feeding tube re-inserted. But Judge Greer blocked Congress's attempt, and nobody dared to re-insert Terri's feeding tube in the face of such judicial obstructionism.
Then a federal judge declared Congress's legislation "unconstitutional" in a written statement, which gives the impression that the judge is far more concerned about how to take political sniper shots at the Republican-controlled White House and Congress than about Terri's fate and her elderly parents' agony.
The power to interpret the law resides in the Court, not in the legislative branch. Thus, our judges enjoy a unique monopoly of America's "constitutional truth". If they decide that to crush an innocent human life is constitutional, it is "constitutional". If they decide that to save an innocent life is unconstitutional, it is "unconstitutional". The common sense of everyday people doesn't count.
That is why Senate Democrats have filibustered President Bush's judicial nominees and will continue to do so in the coming months. They have successfully obstructed the appointment of perfectly qualified legal experts to the Bench, because they want America's courtrooms to be packed with liberal, left-leaning, activist judges, so that the law will be interpreted according to their left-wing ideology to serve their left-wing political interests.
The problem is: If judges promote "a culture of obstructionism" to push their political agenda, the interests of innocent, helpless people caught in the middle like Terri Schiavo and her parents are likely to become unnecessary casualties -- not to mention the fact that a court controlled by a bunch of left-wing judges like Florida's Supreme Court can hardly be regarded as an "independent institution" since it may have already degenerated into a judicial arm for the political left, in which case, justice itself may become a casualty.
Whereas what the judges should do when faced with a case like Terri Schiavo is to look up to Rev. Jesse Jackson (hardly a right-wing figure), spend some time reading the Bible, have mercy on the helpless, have compassion for elderly parents, take the moral high ground, cut out the deceitful "constitutional" mumbo-jumbo, and forget about their political affinities whatever they may be. Of course, that is, if they want to maintain their respectability as judges.
[April 5, 2005]