Schindlers to Intervene in Case to Defend 'Terri's Law'

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - A law firm representing the parents of a brain-damaged Florida woman filed a notice of appeal Friday to intervene in her husband's challenge to a new law that allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to order the woman's feeding tube to be reconnected.

The appeal, filed by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), involves two orders issued by Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird denying a motion by Terri Schindler Schiavo's parents to intervene in the case and Judge Baird's denial of a motion for rehearing, a motion that Baird reconsider his initial decision on the intervention question.

"It is important that the parents of Terri Schindler Schiavo be directly involved in defending the law that is keeping their daughter alive," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, a public interest law firm specializing in constitutional law.

The ACLJ is representing the Schindlers in Schiavo v. Bush, the legal challenge to the constitutionality of the actions of the governor and state legislature. Patricia Fields Anderson is representing the Schindlers in all other aspects of the Schiavo case.

"The actions taken by the state legislature and the governor were not only appropriate but constitutional as well. Since 'Terri's Law' faces a serious legal challenge, it is only appropriate that the court permit Terri's parents to become a party in this case - to be directly involved - in the battle to save the life of their daughter," Sekulow said in a statement.

"We're hopeful that the appeals court will grant the Schindlers the opportunity to present their position in this critical case as a direct party rather than through a friend-of-the-court brief," Sekulow added.

The ACLJ filed an amicus brief on behalf of Robert and Mary Schindler on Nov. 6 to ensure that the Schindlers' views are heard while the denial of the motion to intervene is appealed.

Baird rules lawsuit may proceed

On Friday, Judge Baird ruled that Michael Schiavo's lawsuit against Gov. Bush might proceed after Bush's attorneys appealed the suit, triggering an automatic stay. Bush's attorneys have until Monday to submit a brief defending the constitutionality of the new law.

Baird said any delays in removing the feeding tube and letting Terri die would violate her right to privacy.

"The deprivation of this right is immediate, ongoing and presumptively unconstitutional," said Baird.

Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, applauded the judge's ruling, calling Gov. Bush's appeal a delaying tactic. "We're obviously very pleased with the judge's decision to vacate the stay," Felos said.

Schindlers take their case to Oprah Winfrey show

Terri's mother, brother and sister appeared on Oprah Winfrey's television show Friday to educate the public on Schiavo's condition. Mary Schindler said Terri is "not in a persistent and vegetative state," contrary to public perception and Michael Schiavo's opinion.

"She's very responsive to me, to my daughter, to Bobby, to her dad. She doesn't have the same expression. She changes from day to day," Mary Schindler said, adding that Terri laughs, cries and laughs at her dad's jokes.

"So you're saying, if he tells a joke, she gets the joke and laughs at the joke?" Winfrey asked.

"The same joke that he's told her for like four years, she laughs every time he tells it," Schindler said.

Terri's sister, Suzanne Carr, told Oprah that Terri is "very purposeful" in her actions.

"Like when you go in and say 'Hi' to Terri, Terri her best to say 'Hi' to you. Or...there's a lot of cases where if you tell Terri you're gonna leave, she'll cry...'cause she doesn't want you to leave. So, her reactions are very purposeful," Carr said.

Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler, said he and his family believe rehabilitation would help his sister.

"It's just not the family saying that Terri can be helped. We have over a dozen doctors - half of them being neurologists that all have either testified, examined Terri - and all believe that she could significantly improve if she was just given the chance," Schindler said.

Bobby Schindler believes Terri's husband "lost hope" in 1992.

"And from then on, she has been completely neglected, has gotten no rehabilitation, no therapy. And we believe, and these doctors believe if she was just given the chance, she could make significant improvement. There's a real misconception out there about Terri's condition," Schindler said.

To view's long-term coverage of the Terri Schindler Schiavo case click here.

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