Anthony Kennedy, meet Terri Schiavo

The Republican justice vilified by the religious right for decisions on abortion and homosexuality may have the first vote on Schiavo's fate.

By Tim Grieve
Published March 23, 2005 5:39PM (EST)

Poor Anthony Kennedy.

The Republican Supreme Court justice vilified by the right for his opinions on abortion, gay rights and the death penalty, will be back on the spot as soon as Terri Schiavo's parents file papers asking the Supreme Court to keep their daughter alive. Requests for emergency relief like this go first to the Supreme Court justice assigned to the judicial circuit from which the case arises. In this instance, that's the 11th Circuit -- the one that covers much of the Southeast -- and Kennedy happens to be the justice assigned to it.

Under the Supreme Court's rules, Kennedy will have the authority to grant an order requiring the immediate re-insertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, keeping her alive in order to give himself and his colleagues on the court time to consider the merits of her parents' petition for certiorari. Whether he chooses to exercise that authority is another matter entirely. With the furor surrounding the Schiavo case, Kennedy is likely to refer the case to the full court straight away.

Such a move shouldn't cause any significant delay. The court is in session today, and all nine justices are in Washington. After a long absence while undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, the chief justice returned to the bench Monday. William Rehnquist has probably spent a lot of time thinking about his own life lately. Very soon now, he'll join Kennedy and seven other justices in making a decision about Terri Schiavo's.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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