U.S. District Judge James Whittemore has just denied a motion by Terri Schiavo's parents for an order requiring that her feeding tube be re-inserted.
The ruling is a blow to efforts by Congress, the president and the religious right to extend Schiavo's life. But it's not the end of the matter. An attorney with the law firm that represents Schiavo's parents told the Associated Press that the parents will appeal immediately to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. Whichever party loses there will inevitably seek review from the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to enter the case previously, but that was before Congress re-wrote the law on federal jurisdiction in order to give Schiavo's parents their day in federal court.
This morning's ruling was not unexpected, at least to those who followed the events at Monday's hearing before Judge Whittemore. To prevail on a motion for a preliminary injunction, litigants usually must show that they have a high probability of winning their case at trial and that they will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not issued in the meantime. According to the Miami Herald, Whittemore told the parents' lawyer at the hearing: "I think you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that you have a substantial likelihood of ultimately winning the case." In a case where every minute matters -- a point Washington made again and again over the weekend -- the fact that Whittemore did not issue an immediate order to re-insert Schiavo's feeding tube was a fairly clear predictor of the ruling that came this morning.