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Outside View: Grim reaper in a black robe

By
HORACE COOPER, Outside View Commentator

WASHINGTON, March 18 (UPI) -- Terri Schiavo has been sentenced to death -- a painful gruesome death. It is a death no human should have to endure, a death by starvation. Schiavo's not in North Korea, Syria or Iran; she's in Florida. Her crime -- she wound up in a persistent vegetative state and under the jurisdiction of Judge George Greer's court.

Terri Schiavo, you may recall is the women in Florida who did not have a living will when her heart stopped 15 years ago, robbing her brain of oxygen. According to her husband Michael, Terri Schiavo told him in conversation that she would not wish to live in a "persistent vegetative state."

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But Terri Schiavo's parents claim their daughter never indicated that she would prefer to die. Furthermore, they say that their son-in-law stands to benefit from her death, both financially and personally. They've even gone so far as to offer to take full responsibility for her and any of her health costs. Most importantly, they challenge her designation as being in this so called "persistent vegetative state" arguing that since she can respond to music, open her eyes by request and recognize her family her status should be reassessed.

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But George Greer of the 6th Circuit in Florida -- acting as judge, jury, and executioner -- will have none of it. As the judge overseeing the case, he has exhibited behavior and made decisions that directly contradict the role of an impartial judiciary in a case literally involving life or death. Acting more like the grim reaper than a neutral arbitrator upholding the law, Greer has refused to allow Florida's Department of Children and Families to intervene on her behalf.

He's also refused to allow new medical tests to be administered in order to assess her health condition. He refused to allow for a hearing into evidence of past abuse involving her husband or the medical facility. Finally, he refused to reconsider his ruling that husband Michael Schiavo's self-serving hearsay constituted "clear and convincing" evidence that Terri would want to die.

At every turn, Greer rules that Terri Schiavo must be starved to death, even after a Florida businessman last week offered $1 million to save Terri's life. Judge Greer is undeterred.

What can be done when a judge goes so far beyond the pale? Florida Constitution Article III, Section 17 provides for the impeachment of judges for misdemeanor in office, misdemeanor being defined as a misdeed or offense less than a felony.

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Make no mistake. This is abuse pure and simple and it shouldn't be tolerated. The family, the Florida Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush have all tried using the courts to overturn Terri Schiavo's death sentence. They failed. Impeachment as the only option left to rein George Greer in.

As our founding fathers intended, impeachment is among the powers elected branches of government have to prevent rogue judges from overstepping their authority. Unfortunately judges and their "amen choir" in the media and academia have successfully limited the use and frequency of this power. As a result, brazen acts of judicial usurpation go unabated as judge after judge plays the legal version of "Que es mas macho?" pursuing ever more extremist counter-culture agendas that would never pass in an open democratic public process.

Sadly, judges like George Greer believe they are immune altogether from any sort of reproach for their actions. It is true that largely our system is designed to foster such a belief but, when an errant judge like Greer oversteps the bounds of decency and the law, for the sake of civil society and the rule of law, he must be stripped of his power. Under a republican form of government, judges, government officials and citizens alike are not free to pick to pick who lives or who dies at will. All must be subjects of, and subject to, the rule of law.

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The real tragedy is that Greer's behavior relative to his colleagues isn't significantly noteworthy. Sadly, his form of judicial activism is rampant -- judges across the country thwart the will of the people and the democratic process in pursuit of an extremist insular leftist agenda. Euthanasia, gay-marriage, radical secularism, ending capital punishment, flag burning etc. -- these and other policies rejected by the public at large are frequently imposed by this powerful minority. And, to add insult to injury, they often cloak their agenda in constitutional legalese. But, when asked to identify actual text in the U.S. Constitution or in their state constitutions that support these extremist policies, tellingly they cannot.

As Alexander Hamilton noted in 1788, impeachment is appropriate for "those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself."

But to hear those in the media and in academia, impeachment is an extreme solution to a minor problem. Our founding fathers would not agree. And the evidence is there for all to see.

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You see, the first official impeached under the U.S. Constitution and actually convicted -- John Pickering of New Hampshire in 1804 -- was a judge. The charges against him were unlawful rulings and drunkenness. Since 1787, 11 of the 16 federal officials impeached have been judges. Every single impeached federal official convicted by the Senate and removed from office has been a judge.

Our founding fathers understood the importance of holding judges accountable and in the case of Terri Schiavo, remembering that lesson can be the difference between life and death.

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(Horace Cooper, is a senior fellow with the Centre for New Black Leadership.)

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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