Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"Advocate Judge" history of Terri Schiavo

Now that Terri Shiavo's parents have exhausted all their legal options and her death is expected by the end of next week (may she rest in the peace that escaped her these last days), I have begun to wonder what the fallout will be. It appears that Jeb Bush's presidential hopes have taken a hard hit, but I don't count him out yet. More importantly, I pondered in an earlier post that some of the fallout will be the call for the "right" judges to be appointed.

It would appear that the traditional call of the Religious Right of electing the right people to office will ensure our country will become a Godly nation has failed. President Bush and his brother, Jeb, were the men in charge and both tried to get their legislative bodies to pass laws to help Terri. Yet neither worked. She is going to die.

Even though the Religious Right did a lot of crowing about putting their man, sorry, God's man in the presidency they weren't able to make any progress on this issue. Not unlike gay marriage and abortion. The thinking must be "If that is the case, then it must be time we start appointing the right people to the bench, right? If we can't trust the guys we get elected to do our bidding, we must focus our efforts on judges who aren't elected." It couldn't be that the Religious Right is really just a noisy minority that has a hard time accepting true democracy at work.

Let's look at those "liberal advocate judges" so heavily involved in this case. I have relied heavily on Christian Life Resources and WFOR, the CBS affiliate in Miami for the background and legal timeline of the case. I have done some research into how the judges got into their current positions, but I don't have the expertise and/or know how to decide if their decisions would put them in the "liberal" or "conservative" category. However, if a judge is appointed by a Republican (or Democrat) the judge must be ruling in ways that they generally agree with.

The first judge to see the case betwen Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers was Circuit Court Judge George Greer. He ran for unopposed for an open seat in 1992. Last year, Greer drew his first opponent in any race for re-election. Protesters in the Schiavo case rallied around Jan Govan. But Greer easily defeated Govan. Greer also is a conservative Republican. Oh and Greer is a church regular, but has been kicked out of his church by his pastor over this Schiavo ruling.

Following the Florida Constitution, once Judge Greer made his ruling the Schindlers appealed to Florida's Second District Court of Appeals. There are 14 members of this court. 9 of them were appointed by Republican governors (8 by Jeb Bush and 1 by Martinez) and 5 by a Democrat.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals upheld Greer's original ruling. The Schindlers again appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court has 7 members. 4 of those members were appointed by Democratic governor, Lawton Chiles and 3 by Jeb Bush. They upheld the ruling and the Schindlers were out of options.

That is until the United States Congress went against traditional Republican leanings and intervened on the national level for this woman. Then the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia was the next place for the battle of the Schindlers versus Michael Schiavo. There are 12 members of this Court of Appeals. Of those 12, 7 were nominated by Republican Presidents and 4 by Clinton. 1 Judge was originally nominated by President Carter, but given a promotion by Ronald Reagan, so we'll call him an independent. The 11th Circuit upheld the previous rulings.

The final step for the Schindlers was an appeal to the United State's Supreme Court. It has 9 members. 7 of them were appointed by Republican presidents and 2 by Clinton. Although, generally they split 5-4 on many decisions, sometimes "liberal" and sometimes "conservative". The court chose not to hear the case.

A few other judges were involved, but these courts and judges have been the key to this unfortunate public spectacle of a private matter.

So let's review, a Republican judge makes a ruling that is upheld by a Republican dominated state circuit court and further upheld by a slightly Democratic Florida Supreme Court. When the Federal government was brought into the fray, the VERY Republican 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the original ruling and finally the Supreme Court decided not to rule on the case.

A strong and independent judiciary is important. They won't blow their own horns, so I will. If we really had a judiciary full of liberal biased, "advocate judges" then somewhere along the chain one of these courts could have overturned the original decision. This case isn't about having "advocate judges" or a liberal bias. It is a sad outcome of a young lady's life with the judges acting in accordance with established law.