Palm Sunday Compromise

Palm Sunday Compromise



What is the Palm Sunday Compromise?


The Palm Sunday Compromise was a bill passed by the Senate and House of Representative that allowed the Terri Schiavo’s case to move to the federal court.  The term, “Palm Sunday Compromise,” was used by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay because the bill was passed on Palm Sunday. 

Many critics say the federal government overstepped its boundaries during the passing of the law. 


The Passing of the Bill


Many of the members of Congress who approved the legislation knew that the judicial decision to remove the feeding tube would cause Terri to die.  However, proponents of the bill wanted to give Terri the same rights as a person who was on death row. 

Persons on death row have the option to make a last appeal to the federal judiciary after all of the state appeals have been tried and affirmed.  Terri’s feeding tube had been removed the day before Congress passed the bill and President Bush signed the bill into federal law. 


Criticism of the Palm Sunday Compromise


Many opponents of the bill affirmed that the federal government overstepped their powers violated the separation of powers.  Other opponents stated that the Congress was taking power away from the judiciary.  Proponents responded by saying the law did not violate the separation of powers because the judiciary would ultimately decide over the case and allowed for a federal judicial review.  The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 


The Night before Terri Schiavo’s Death


 On the night before Terri Schiavo’s death, her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, tried to file an emergency bid for review under the federal appeals court.  They argued that the court should have review the entire state record instead of the just evidence presented during the case. 

Again, the federal Appellate Court and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 

Ultimately, the appellate court ruled that Congress did not have power under the Constitution to allow the federal courts to decide upon constitutionality in Schiavo’s case.  Additionally, the appellate court ruled that the federal law attempted to control the judicial process in the appellate court by reviewing evidence and constitutionality “de novo,” or from a fresh start. 

The court stated, “Because these provisions constitute legislative dictation of how a federal court should exercise its judicial functions, the Act invades the province of the judiciary and violates the separation of powers principle.”


Lessons Learned from the Terri Schiavo Case


The biggest lesson one can take form the Terri Schiavo case is don’t let the government control what you do with your body.  Terri Schiavo never signed documents that would decide her fate in case she was attached to life support and showed no evidence of improving in health.  As a result, her husband had to fight for years to maintain his rights as a legal guardian and do something he believed Terri would have wanted in the first place.  It’s important to plan for unexpected events in the future, and it’s important to talk to an attorney about setting up a living will. 

Related Topics