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Lawmakers Criticize Federal Judges on Schiavo Case

Congressional lawmakers who fought to keep Teri Schiavo alive say the death of the brain-damaged woman will have far-reaching effects when Congress reconvenes after a two-week break.

House Majority leader Tom DeLay played a pivotal role in bringing lawmakers back to Washington in mid-March for a legislative session aimed at keeping Terri Schiavo alive.

Now he is intensifying his attacks on what he describes as an out of control federal judiciary, an issue he asserts Congress and the states need to examine more closely.

"One thing Terri has done is brought this to our attention, and the American people I am sure want a debate on this, and want Congress as well as state legislatures around the country to look at this issue," he said.

Legislation the House of Representatives approved, after similar action by the Senate, provided Terri Schiavo's parents with additional legal avenues at the federal court level in trying to keep her on life support against the wishes of her husband.

Speaking in Florida Thursday, Terri Schiavo's sister Suzanne Vitadamo referred to those efforts:

"We have a message to the many government officials who tried to save Terri," she said. "Thank you for all that you have done, our family will forever be greatful to all of the outstanding public servants who have tried to save Terri."

However, even some of the strongest congressional supporters have since expressed second thoughts about voting in favor of Congress becoming so closely involved in the Schiavo matter.

Democrats, who passionately opposed the Schiavo legislation, such as House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, repeated their view that Congress should have stayed out of the case.

An even brighter spotlight is now focused on Congressman DeLay, who Democrats accuse of trying to move Congress too far into interventionism on such issues as the sanctity of life.

In Mr. DeLay's words, judges must be held responsible for their decisions to, as he puts it, ignore the will of Congress and the President to protect human life.

"The federal judiciary have chosen not to protect an American citizen from having their constitutional rights violated," said Mr. DeLay. "[And] I include the Supreme Court in that. Polls having nothing to do with this, this is a matter of life and death, and a matter of an unaccountable, out-of-control judiciary."

A key Republican senator, Rick Santorum, Thursday jointed Congressman deLay in accusing judges in Florida, and the U.S. Supreme Court, of supporting a death sentence for Terri Schiavo.

That is something George Felos, attorney for Terri Schiavo's husband Michael, again disputed in the hours following her death.

George Felos
"Whether you might disagree with the evidence or the quantum [amount] of proof, or the reliability of the witnesses, whatever opinion you may have the court through a grueling process found by clear and convincing evidence through the testimony of three witnesses relaying seven conversations, that Mrs. Schiavo said no tubes for me, I don't want to remain alive artificially," said Mr. Felos.

President Bush issued this carefully-worded statement following Terri Schiavo's death.

"I urge all Americans to continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed, valued, and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others," said President Bush.

The President did not echo the harsh criticism from Mr. DeLay and others of federal judges. His spokesman, Scott McClellan told reporters, "…ultimately, we have to follow our laws and abide by the courts."