- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2005

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (AP) — A federal appeals court raised a flicker of hope for the parents of Terri Schiavo, but snuffed it out yesterday by emphatically refusing to intervene in the battle and harshly chiding the elected branches of government for getting involved.

“Any further action by our court or the district court would be improper,” wrote Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., a member of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “While the members of her family and the members of Congress have acted in a way that is both fervent and sincere, the time has come for dispassionate discharge of duty.”

The judge, who was appointed in 1990 by the first President Bush, went on to deliver a scathing attack on elected officials who tried to intervene to rehook the brain-damaged Florida woman’s food and water tubes.

The White House and Congress “have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers’ blueprint for the governance of a free people — our Constitution,” Judge Birch wrote.

The Schindlers appealed the refusal to the U.S. Supreme Court last night, but the nine justices took less than two hours to issue a one-sentence order declining to review the Atlanta court’s decision.

The rulings came as Mrs. Schiavo, 41, began her 13th day without food and water. She was expected to survive one to two weeks after her feeding tube was removed by court order March 18.

Mrs. Schiavo’s parents said their daughter still looked “surprisingly good” and pleaded with supporters to keep up efforts to reconnect her feeding tube before it is too late.

“I’m asking that nobody throw in the towel as long as she’s fighting, to keep fighting with her,” Bob Schindler said after visiting his daughter yesterday afternoon.

The appeals court raised the Schindlers’ hopes late Tuesday when it agreed to consider their emergency bid for a new hearing in the case. But 15 hours later, the court ruled against granting a hearing — the fourth time since last week that it ruled against the Schindlers.

The parents asked that the feeding tube be reinserted immediately “in light of the magnitude of what is at stake and the urgency of the action required.”

The Schindlers’ motion included arguments that the 11th Circuit in its earlier rulings did not consider whether there was enough “clear and convincing” evidence that Mrs. Schiavo would have chosen to die in her current condition.

To be granted, the parents’ request would have needed the support of seven of the court’s 12 judges. The court did not disclose the vote breakdown.

Judges Gerald Tjoflat and Charles R. Wilson, the two judges who also issued a dissenting opinion last week when the full court considered the case for the first time, said the harried pace of appeals made it impossible to determine whether state courts properly considered the evidence.

The two dissenters, appointed by Presidents Ford and Clinton respectively, said yesterday, “It is fully within Congress’ power to dictate standards of review” for federal courts. “Indeed, if Congress cannot do so, the fate of hundreds of federal statutes would be called into question.”

Federal courts were given jurisdiction to review Mrs. Schiavo’s case after Congress passed emergency legislation aimed at prolonging her life.

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