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House Leaders File Brief in Schiavo Case

In a last-ditch effort to intervene in the Terry Schiavo case, House Republican leaders have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Schiavo’s parents’ legal effort to keep their daughter alive.

The brief will make an argument similar to that made by GOP leaders in a “statement of interest” they filed earlier today with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. The full 11th Circuit rejected an appeal this afternoon by Schiavo’s parents after a three-judge federal panel had ruled against them this morning and refused to order that Schiavo’s feeding tube be reinserted.

Those moves and another federal court ruling Tuesday came after both chambers of Congress convened this past weekend in a highly unusual session to pass a bill giving federal courts jurisdiction over future legal efforts by Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.

Earlier today, the Schindlers petitioned the 11th Circuit for an “expedited rehearing,” asking the full 12-member appeals court to reverse this morning’s ruling by the three-judge panel. That effort was rejected this afternoon.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.), Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.) and Rep. Dave Weldon (Fla.) filed a statement of interest — the equivalent of an amicus brief — with the 11th Circuit explaining the House legislative history of S.686, the bill the chamber passed Sunday night.

They argued in the brief that this morning’s ruling by the three-judge panel examined the Schiavo measure’s legislative history in the Senate but did not adequately take the House’s intent into account.

After the first federal court ruling Tuesday, some Congressional supporters complained that the court had not adequately heeded the instructions of S. 686, which called for the district court to examine anew whether Schiavo’s rights have been violated without regard or reference to what Florida courts had already ruled on the matter.

In this morning’s decision, the three-judge panel cited a colloquy that occurred on the Senate floor between Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). During that discussion, Levin asked whether S.686 requires the federal court to issue a stay that would reinsert Schiavo’s feeding tube. Frist replied that the bill did not mandate such a stay, though he certainly expected the court to issue one.

But House supporters of the bill argued that the measure as signed into law actually does require the court to issue a temporary restraining order while it considers the merits of the case.

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