Given the new focus of this blog, I have stayed away from the political aspects of the Terri Schiavo case. From a legal standpoint, though, I find the Congressional legislation disconcerting. Basically, it grants one (and only one) federal court in Florida jurisdiction to hear a case brought within the next 30 days (and only in that timeframe) by “[a]ny parent” of Terri Schiavo (and only a parent) relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life.
This is horrible precedent. Basically, Congress is saying that because a majority of its members evidently believe it politically expedient to disagree with the conclusions reached by state courts on matters of state law, it is literally going to make a federal case out of this. Moreover, this is a federal case that only two people have the power to bring. This not only violates the concepts of separation of powers and comity, it strikes at the heart of federalism. From a more non-legalistic standpoint, doesn’t this mean Congress should intervene in every case of this type? If Terri Schiavo’s parents are entitled to such legislation, aren’t everyone’s?
My comments have nothing to do with the merits or validity of the positions taken by Schiavo’s parents or husband. We need to stop sacrificing the rule of law for political purposes. Which reminds me, Stephanie Herseth voted in favor of the bill, once again demonstrating that having a law degree does not mean legal principles take priority over political pandering. Still, she at least cast a public vote. The Senate didn’t have the guts to go on record and approved the legislation with a voice vote.
CLARIFICATION/UPDATE: If the Argus is correct, not objecting to the voice vote means all the US Senators are on record supporting this legislation. Not surprisingly, Thune is upfront about his support. Sen. Tim Johnson’s staff said he supported the legislation as the “best-case scenario” to the “wrangling” and because the bill contains language saying it is not precedent for future legislation.