Terri Schiavo: Key Legal Arguments Timeline

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The following is the Key Legal Arguments Timeline related to Terri Schiavo Legal Case.

"It is a cruel twist lost on no one close to the case: A woman who is said to have struggled with an eating disorder is now in the middle of a court battle over whether her feeding tube should be removed so that she can starve to death." AP, February 26, 2005.


Legal Battle Begins

  • On September 17, 2003, Circuit Judge George W. Greer set October 15, 2003, as the date when removal of the feeding tube could begin.
  • October 21, 2003: Florida Bill SB35e a/k/a "Terri's Law"; it was subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court September 23, 2004.
  • Florida Governor Jeb Bush issued an Executive Order that the feeding tube should be reinserted for Schiavo; it was subsequently ruled unconstitutional.

Legal Battle Resumes

  • February 23, 2005: Pinellas County Circuit Court, Probate Division Order set March 18, 2005, as the day to withdraw Schiavo's feeding tube.
  • Read the order signed by Judge George W. Greer.
  • March 16, 2005: Florida 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals denied motion for a stay.
  • Schindlers submitted an emergency motion to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay.
  • March 17, 2005: U.S. Supreme Court Order rejected a request to consider arguments on the case.
  • Read the Court's order.
  • March 19, 20, & 21, 2005: The "compromise bill" was introduced on Saturday, March 19, 2005, passed by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Sunday, March 20, 2005, and signed into law by President Bush early Monday morning on March 21, 2005.
  • March 22, 2005: U.S. District Court Judge James D. Whittemore "refused to order the tube feeding" of Terri Schiavo. [1]
  • March 23, 2004: A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling, refused "to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, denying an emergency request" by the woman's parents to keep her alive, saying that "the woman's parents 'failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims.'" [2]
  • Read the Schindlers' appeal.
  • Read the Appeals Court's decision.
  • Read the Florida Supreme Court opinion.
  • The Florida Senate rejected bill in a 21-18 vote, despite the claim by "top state officials" that Terri Schiavo may have been misdiagnosed, based on a new diagnosis by "Dr. William Cheshire, a neurologist with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville", and State officials wanted to place Schiavo "under protective custody." Miami Herald.
  • Read Dr. Cheshire's affidavit.
  • Read the Florida Department of Children and Families's petition.
  • Dr. Jay Wolfson, Professor of Public Health and Medicine, University of South Florida, served as legal guardian of Terri Schiavo, "subsequent to the special law passed by the Florida Legislature in October of 2003." After reviewing all of Schiavo's more than 30,000 pages of medical and legal documents and spending "close to 30 days visiting" Schiavo, for "as long as 4 hours each day, including visits with her parents and her husband," prepared a report to the Governor and the 6th Judicial Florida Circuit Court "addressing the question as to whether or not Terri should have additional swallowing tests."
  • Wolfson said March 23, 2005, "the pictures you see are several years old, including those depicting terri when michael made certain that she had make up and new clothes every day. she cannot swallow anything but her own saliva, and would aspirate (suck into her lungs) any food or water that might be given to her. there are many unsubstantiated facts. please try to read the report that i wrote and it may provide some additional, factual guidance." Washington Post, March 23, 2005.

Legal Recourse Nears End

  • George Felos, attorney for Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, said that "The entire judicial system of the United States -- state courts and entire federal court system -- has said this case must end. This case is over." Orlando Sentinel, March 23, 2005.
  • March 23 & 24, 2005: Although the Schindlers made an emergency filing March 23, 2005, saying that their daughter "faces an unjust and imminent death based on a decision by her husband to remove a feeding tube without strong proof of her consent," alleging "constitutional violations of due process and religious freedom" and arguing that "Congress intended for Schiavo's tube to be reinserted, at least temporarily, when it passed an extraordinary bill last weekend that gave federal courts authority to fully review her case," the Supreme Court refused March 24, 2005, "to order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted" and, for at least the fifth time, "declined to get involved" with the Schiavo case. Justice Kennedy referred the ruling to the full nine-member Court." [3][4]
  • March 24, 2005: Following an attempt by the Schindler family and Gov. Jeb Bush to have Schiavo taken into protective custody, "Judge George Greer said the effort by Gov. Jeb Bush and the state Department of Children & Families to gain custody of Schiavo 'appears to be brought for the purpose of circumventing the court's final judgment and order' to remove the tube. He denied the request." [5].
  • Michael Schiavo opposed the Schindlers' application for injunction.
  • March 25, 2005: U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore, who previously "rejected a similar request," ruled against Schiavo's parents for a second time. [6]
  • The Schindlers appealed once again for review of Whittemore's ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, although the "Atlanta court refused earlier this week to overturn a previous Whittemore ruling," and Judge Greer "ruled for a second time against" Schiavo's appeal. [7]
  • March 26, 2005: "Circuit Judge George Greer, the state judge who has presided over the seven-year legal dispute between Michael Schiavo, who is Terri's husband and guardian, and her parents Bob and Mary Schindler, rejected a petition that alleged Terri had tried to communicate that she wanted to live." Reuters.
  • March 30, 2005: "In a rare legal victory for Terri Schiavo's parents, a federal appeals court agreed to consider their request for a new hearing on whether to reconnect their severely brain-damaged daughter's feeding tube.
"The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued a written ruling without comment late Tuesday granting the emergency motion, but did not indicate when it would consider rehearing the case. Last week, the same court twice ruled against Schiavo's parents, who are trying to keep their daughter alive." AP.