Parents End Appeals in Schiavo Case

Terri Schiavo’s parents have resigned themselves to her fate and are ending their appeals in federal court. CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen believes they never had a case to begin with.

Federal Appeals End in Schiavo Case (VOA News)

The parents of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo have ended their appeals in the federal court system following another ruling against them by a three-judge panel in Atlanta, Georgia. The Florida Circuit Court Judge who ruled to disconnect their daughter’s feeding tube more than a week ago also ruled against another appeal from Terri Schiavo’s parents on Saturday.

Ms. Schiavo’s parents are making what they say is one last appeal to the Florida Supreme Court to have their daughters feeding tube re-attached, but they are given little chance of success.

Bob and Mary Schindler gave up their effort in Federal Court to re-attach their daughter’s feeding tube, after the 11th Circuit Court of appeals in Atlanta denied their third appeal. Last Sunday, the U.S. Congress passed an emergency bill allowing the Schindlers to appeal their case in Federal Courts. Days later, after a series of dramatic appeals through the Federal Court system, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to order Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube re-attached.

Why Schiavo’s Parents Didn’t Have a Case (LAT)

Terri Schiavo’s parents did not lose their federal case because they didn’t try hard enough. They didn’t lose their case because everyone conspired against them. They didn’t lose it because Congress ticked off the judiciary over the weekend with its over-the-top custom-made legislation. They didn’t lose it for lack of money or because they failed to file a court paper on time. They didn’t lose it because the laws are unfair or because bureaucrats sometimes can be arbitrary and capricious.

The Schindlers lost their case and their cause — and soon probably their daughter — because in the end they were making claims the legal system has never been able or willing to recognize. They lost because they long ago ran out of good arguments to make — those arguments having been reasonably rejected by state judge after judge — and thus were left with only lame ones. And they lost because in every case someone has to win and someone has to lose. That’s the way it works in our system of government. It isn’t pretty, and sometimes it’s unfair. But it’s reality.


It is no wonder that the federal appeals court refused to reverse Whittemore’s ruling. And it is no wonder that the conservative U.S. Supreme Court decided for a fourth time to stay out of the case. This harsh reality won’t make it any easier for the Schindlers, but government cannot run on passion or emotion or sympathy. As the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: “There is no denying the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo…. In the end, and no matter how much we wish Mrs. Schiavo had never suffered such a horrible accident, we are a nation of laws.”

I don’t blame the Schindlers and their lawyers for coming up with any and every argument they could think of. Grief expresses itself in many ways. By refusing to accept the Florida court decisions, Congress and the White House enabled this grief, falsely encouraged it and then used it, and the Schindlers, for political purposes. The federal courts, on the other hand, by refusing to change the Constitution for one family, acknowledged this grief and tried to deal with it as humanely as possible while still providing the finality that our legal system provides and that our society needs.

Of course, it would help if they could have done it without allowing it to drag on for over a decade. That the U.S. Supreme Court actually had to rule on this case four times is absurd. One round of appeals should be enough to resolve any case.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. George Greenwald says:

    The U.S. Congress sanctions actions that unjustifiably kill one or two hundred thousand Iraqis (but who’s counting, really), lowers pollution standards and reduces accessibility to healthcare, while abusing a brain-dead woman to demonstrate their “reverence for life”. I don’t know if starvation is a torturous affair, but most certainly the U.S. government’s sending of prisoners to foreign prisons to be “questioned”, is.

    Hypocrisy has never been so well defined.

    The worst evil is evil done under the guise of righteousness. They are using her tormented body and soul as their political football. The U.S. Congress is the protectorate only of the brain-dead, the unborn and the wealthy.

    It is ironic that bulimia was the primary contributor to Terri’s current condition, and Congress wants to force her to keep eating! (If you don’t know about the eating disorder, bulimia, look it up) In the end, it will be true that Terri starved herself to death.

  2. Eh, the LAT article is a shade up from poop.

    The reason that the state courts kept upholding Greer’s findings was because of the traditional deference afforded to the finder of fact.

    Despite Congressional action that excpressly held that no deference should be given to the state court proceedings, the District COurt proceeded to do just that. Which is the problem. The 11th Circuit’s platitudes notwithstanding.

    I agree one round of appeals is enough, if we’re talking about a 1975 Pacer. This is a lil’ different though.

  3. Linda Merc says:

    Mr. Joyner,
    How many appeals should be enough to save your child when you feel there is hope? A nation where laws are more important than a person’s life? A sad commentary on our priorities as a nation and people.

  4. George Greenwald says:

    The U.S. Congress sanctions actions that unjustifiably kill one or two hundred thousand Iraqis (but who’s counting, really), lowers pollution standards and reduces accessibility to healthcare, while abusing a brain-dead woman to demonstrate their “reverence for life”. I don’t know if starvation is a torturous affair, but most certainly the U.S. government’s sending of prisoners to foreign prisons to be “questioned”, is.

    Hypocrisy has never been so well defined.

    The worst evil is evil done under the guise of righteousness. They are using her tormented body and soul as their political football. The U.S. Congress is the protectorate only of the brain-dead, the unborn and the wealthy.

    It is ironic that bulimia was the primary contributor to Terri’s current condition, and Congress wants to force her to keep eating! (If you don’t know about the eating disorder, bulimia, look it up) In the end, it will be true that Terri starved herself to death.

  5. george bush says:

    if we can cut off the feeding tubes for anyone who is brain dead, i could be next

  6. Grant Thomas says:

    Since when is there anything in the Constitution about killing a person who requires feeding through a tube? There is reason to suspect that the reason for Terri’s husband to want her dead is so that she can’t ever tell what happened to her to begin with.
    Since when does the Constitution direct judges to conspire against a person who is entitle to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? Finally, I’m sick of the liberal media telling us that Greer is a “conservative Christian”. As one, I can tell you that he isn’t! I admire his church for kicking his murderous butt out. Now THEY are conservative Christians! Greer is garbage!

  7. nelson lafrancis says:

    Analyst Cohen seems to operate like judge Whittemoe who was directed to review the whole case from the beginning and make a ruling on it.
    He went thru ten plus years testimony in less than a day and, let the original decisions stand.
    Should anyone believe he can read that fast?
    If they had looked at all the facts, they would realize their statements are totalBS.
    They should get a job at MacDonalds where they would be helping people… Nelson.

  8. L. A. Clauser says:

    Reading: Outside The Beltway – Parents End Appeals in Schiavo Case – Posted by James Joyner at 19:25

    These are only my opinions given the input of the world at large.

    I unfortunately, not having the issue’s resolution
    fully disolved in my own right have to agree at every point.

    I am a retired 100% disabled verteran. I have came closer than I personally know, to each of the questions that have risen in many facets beyond the average persons’ normale life. I can only hope and pray though I know it will not bare out, that no other has to endure any of these questions.

    Along with that I would like to add, if there was any grounds legally recognised crime, of which I believe near the begin it was raised then that is what should have been dogged. That has proven not to be the case, which leaves most to believe it was merely a straw and had no relevant foundation. Mr. Schiavo’s actions prior and after have proven out by the parents’ own admission most points until lately. Once again resorting to grasping at straws.

    I feel that there was strong error on the parts of special interest on all sides to further their agenda/$$$, and at no point did either side let the tradgedy of life get up and say “Yes, there is tradgedy. Some times small and sometimes great, but YES there is TRADGEDY… we call this living and life it self”. Instead they insisted at even such a religious time to invoke their agenda regardless of who else would pay for it. These acts may not point to who has religion, but it will be hard fought to prove otherwise of who doesn’t have religion after sticking hteir heads so far above all else.

    Please, let us not follow the events with further adgendas that I see highly likely to proceed. Maybe after a break, maybe not.

    Those directly concerned have lived a large part of there life emersed in such lifestyle. Then it was not subdued, but put upon the nation and world.

    This is/was a very personal thing that should never have been brought to the head like it has. I feel sure that it will cost us all in some way, some time. It is as sure as science of math and balance is, and that is what this case has lacked.

  9. Stefano Freiesleben Sias says:

    It is heartbreaking to listen to all the rhetoric going on in the Terri Schiavo case. It seems like it is more a matter of satifying the conscience of the people surrounding her, rather than taking Terri Schiavo and her situation seriously. There is no telling what variables have been decisive in this battle for the right to live or die. The courts have decided to trust the family, namely Terri Schiavo’s husband rather than her parents in deciding whether or not Terri Schiavo should have the right to live on. I find it distasteful to say the least, that an innocent person’s life may hang by such a fragile thread. The court system should never have been allowed to decide for or against life in this case. Terri Schiavo should have the right per definition to live out her life by the machine which keeps her alive, and not to be trampled under the feet of money, power, prestige, justice or whatever you wish to call this circus that is playing a game to decide who wins or loses here. Reducing Terri Schiavo to less than a human being by treating her with such utter lack of dignity as is being protrayed in this case, by death of starvation, when her life could be preserved by having her feeding tube reinserted, is something unimaginable to me. This is a case of a woman who is at peace in a vegetative state, but whose body may now be suffering through this deprivation, until her whole system collapses into the finality of death. And death for what? For money? Power? The justification of Law?

    The biggest casualty in this case, is the compassion that Terri Schiavo’s parents represent, – for the right of one woman to live out her life, and die. – Instead the hope in Terri Schiavo’s life, the hope of life itself, is now being taken away, removed by the very people who should care about her the most, her husband and relatives, and by the state, who thinks itself so lofty as to be able to decide who lives and dies, when life and hope could still be preserved.

    Thank God for the stubbornness of Terri Schiavo’s parents, who will be remembered for this because of their relentless will to pursue life and to save life where death looms nearby. It may so be that Terri Schiavo has little life as it is, in a vegetative state, – but no one really knows what goes on inside her mind, – and every benefit of the doubt, that Terri Schiavo might infact have some inner life still that needs preserving, because of its own right to exist, should be respected and granted.

    In the event of Terri Schiavo’s death, she will be remembered as the silent martyr, in a case of the furthering of the will of everyone around her. Whether or not her own will is honored, will always remain a mystery, shrouded in the dark clouds of the bitter conflicts revolving around this fragile persons right to exist for as long as that might or might not be. Everyone should have the right to live out their lives, until every hope has perished, – however fragile it may be. And hope should never be quenched like it is being done in Terri Schiavo’s case. When we forget the value of this, we degrade our morality, – a morality which defines the ethical basis of our society. In essence we degrade ourselves.

  10. Peter Pflaum says:

    As I’ve posted on our clergy listserve, several things are fascinating
    about this case.

    First, it is interesting to note that while the Roman Catholic Church
    teaches a moral obligation to supply nutrition/hydration in these cases,
    even as one may withdraw all other med technologies, they are the
    exception. Orthodoxy and Anglicanism (Lambeth 1998) allow for withdrawal
    of all medical technologies, including in persistent vegetative states.
    Most protestant churches, and Anglicanism is the exception, have no
    coherent teachings and vary from pastor to pastor. And of course the Bible
    says nothing about feeding tubes, does it?

    Ponder this: Why has the religious/evangelical right joined itself (I
    think uncritically) to the Roman Catholic position? It’s quite curious. I
    think it is rooted in frustration with our courts plus a shared belief that
    a culture of death is on the rise. However, notwithstanding the pro-life
    alliance between evangelicals and Roman Catholics, it is fascinating to see
    this evolution.

    Next, note how the Republicans orchestrated a terribly cheezy piece of
    legislation to placate their base. And note how the dems helped them do
    so. They win, because they both avoid criticism by RC constituencies for
    being anti-life, AND they get to watch the Republicans alienated some 80%
    of the voters. Amazing.

    Add to all of this the bewildering array of scurrilous attacks going both
    ways. Parents are accused of advocating the murder of abortion docs.
    Husband accused of strangling and otherwise abusing Terri, plus of wanting
    the money, now largely spent. Greer is accused (and it is true) of taking
    a campaign donation from the husband’s attorney the day after he made his
    decision, in May. The parents’ case gets stranger by the hour. Now we’re
    supposed to believe that by uttering the syllables “ahh” “waa” she was
    saying “I want to live.” Well, maybe she was saying “I want to die”. Who
    the hell knows?

    What a mess.


    Original Message:
    From: Peter Pflaum pf*****@uc***.net
    Date: Sat, 26 Mar 2005 13:36:15 -0500
    To: fr****@my*********.com, Fr***@st*********.net,
    tr********@be*******.net, fr****@my*********.org
    Subject: Emailing: article

    WorldNetDaily: Terri’s money used to pay for starvation deathThis is quite
    wild – it is so far from the “mainstream” as is Delay and the hard right –
    so unkind – so mean – so unchristian – This extremism will be it’s undoing
    – when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he quoted two
    commands from the books of Moses: “Love the Lord your God will all your
    heart and with all your soul and with all our mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and
    “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Not only did
    Jesus identify the most important commands but he also revealed that all of
    the writings of the Law and the Prophets depended on these commands. Given
    that these two sentences are the foundation of all that God chose to reveal
    through Moses and the prophets, certainly they deserve a considerable
    amount of our attention. Without in any way trying to diminish the
    importance of the first command, I would like to focus on the second –

    MARCH 26

  11. reliapundit says:

    dr jj;

    would you also avow that one round of appeals is sufficient in death-row cases?

    if so, that would sure let states execute more murderers, ’cause right now it takes 20+ years and DOZENS of appeals to execute a murderer.

    or do you – like glenn reynolds – just favor less appeals for heartbroken mothers than you think is adeqaute for murderers?

  12. Jeff Baker says:

    Reliapundit, this case has been heard by 15 state courts, two federal courts, and the US Supreme Court had four chances to take it. It has been heard by every conceivable venue. To say that it has only been through “one round of appeal” is absurd.

    The lot of you Jesuslanders need to step back and check yourselves. 83% of people in the USA Today poll believe that Schiavo wants to die, and that Congress is wrong to intervene. You need to figure out why you are in the far right exteme on this issue.

    Furthermore, slandering people doesn’t improve your case. There is NO credible information that Mr. Schiavo abused his wife. I could write a program to automatically produce that horse shit they publish at WorldNetDaily. Take note:

    “Grant Thomas abuse scandal investigation covered up

    WorldNetDaily Exclusive

    Will Grant Thomas be brought to justice? WorldNetDaily has learned that the FBI investigation into the abuses committed by Grant Thomas has been killed by someone high up in the Justice Department. Allegations first surfaced last week regarding evidence that Thomas is a life-long wife beater. A respected pathologist in New York told WorldNetDaily he had examined videotape of Mr. Thomas’s wife, and is convinced Thomas repeatedly slammed her head into an iron beam.

    “There is no doubt in my mind that this woman was beaten,” said the pathologist, who requested his name not be used.

    But informants at the FBI have told WorldNetDaily that the investigation of this horrible crime has been “stonewalled.” According to sources, the file for the investigation has been marked “Unsubtantiated” by an unknown supervisor, despite the convinving testimony of Mrs. Thomas’s parents and caretakers.

    Etc etc etc. You get the point yet?

  13. Jeb doesn't care says:

    Terri Schiavo’s psycho husband got away with murder and should confess to trying to kill her with insulin shots over 10 years ago. Hopefully the nurse who noticed this (and was subsequently fired by the hospital) will start to appear more in the news. We desperately need more honesty in this country.

  14. Just Me says:

    “Of course, it would help if they could have done it without allowing it to drag on for over a decade.”

    Actually the “right to die/kill” aspect of this case hasn’t even dragged on for more than 10 years. It has been about 7-8 years. Michael Schiavo didn’t even request the feeding tube be removed until 1997. At that point is when it went to court.

    I don’t think it is fair to charactarize the judges involved in this case as “activism” although in other areas the case could certainly be made. But in this one, while I disagree with the trial judges conclusions (I don’t think it was proved by clear and convincing evidence that Terri wanted to die, and I am also troubled by the fact that in this case there was never a permanently appointed representative/attorney to advocate for Terri only-I am also troubled by the fact the fact that Michael lives with another woman, who he said he intended to marry after Terri was dead, and whom he now has children with is the one making these decisions), I don’t think he acted or decided outside what the law allows.

    I think where the real weakness in this case lies is within the laws for how they decide situations like this where you have a severely brain damaged person on a feeding tube with no written directive and a disagreement among family members as to what her wishes were. These situations are actually pretty rare (most times in these situtions, the family members do agree on what the incapacitated person desired), but there should be some way to better protect the interests of the person who can’t speak for themselves than how it was done in this case.

    That issue is something the Florida legislature has to solve. The easiest thing they could do, is require that an indpendant attorney representing the disabled person be appointed for the entire court proccess.

  15. McGehee says:

    That issue is something the Florida legislature has to solve.

    Trouble is, we’ve seen more than enough examples over the past five years that Florida’s courts — especially SCOFLA, which I’ve been told established a precedent allowing Greer to rule as he did — don’t give a rat’s ass for legislative intent even when it’s spelled out in flaming nine-foot-tall letters.

  16. Jeff Baker says:

    Just Me, you’re wrong about Terri’s representation. The court *is* her representative. That’s the whole point of the case. Mr. Schiavo asked the court to resolve the issue because he knew he might be or be perceived to be biased. The court has also appointed several people to act as guardian ad litem, which means they are the representative appointed by the court to advocate the incapacitated person’s best interest.

    In other words, you are “troubled by the fact” that you have heard a ton of crap from the right-wing noise machine which is not true. The fact is that Terri was represented by third parties as guardian ad litem and had ample advocacy for her own best interest.

  17. Just Me says:

    Yes Jeff that aspect troubles me.

    The court, when finding fact in this case should not be the representitive for her either.

    She should have received (and if Florida law didn’t provide this, then in the future anyone in this situation where there is disagreement between family members and nothing in writing) an independent representative.

    Her guardian ad litem in the original case did recomend against the removal of the tube.

    The most recent guardian ad litem recomended that a permanent guardian ad litem be appointed.

    That has been one of the things I have felt was wrong from the begining, was that Terri never had anyone solely representing her interests in all of this. And as perfect as you may think Michael Schiavo is, the facts are that when he chose to remove the feeding tube, there was 700k in the bank and he had a girlfriend who he said he intended to marry once Terri was dead (that was in the GAL’s report not some website set up with propganda).

  18. TnTexas says:

    The Supreme Court never made a ruling one way or another on the case, did it? Refusing to hear it is not the same as making a ruling on it.

  19. James Joyner says:

    TnTexas: Actually, it is. The Supremes only hear about 85 cases a year. Almost nobody actually gets to argue their case there.

  20. Just Me says:

    Actually refusing the hear a case isn’t the same as a ruling, the SCOTUS has refused a lot of cases over the years, then later when taking a case on that issue has made a ruling contrary to what the prior decisions were.

    A decision to not take a case just means that the SCOTUS will allow the lower courts ruling to stand, it doesn’t neccessarily mean they have ruled on the merits of the case itself.