Thursday, March 31, 2005

One for the Constitution

At last, a member of the judiciary involved in the Schiavo case has been willing to call a spade a spade. In yesterday's appeal by Terri Schiavo's parents to the 11th Circuit federal Court of Appeals, one of the judges on the panel issued an opinion devoted to the peril posed to the Constitution by congressional intervention in the case. (It was legislation passed by Congress that allowed the case to live another day in the federal system after all appeals had been exhausted in the Florida state courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to hear it.) The New York Times reports:

The 11th Circuit court's decision, signed by Chief Judge J. L. Edmondson, was only a sentence long. But in a concurring opinion, Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., appointed by the first President Bush in 1990, wrote that federal courts had no jurisdiction in the case and that the law enacted by Congress and President Bush allowing the Schindlers to seek a federal court review was unconstitutional.

"When the fervor of political passions moves the executive and legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene," wrote Judge Birch, who has a reputation as consistently conservative. "If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow."

Read the Times's coverage by Abby Goodnough and William Yardley

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