Cover Story

Courage rules

Issue: "Judicial overreach?," Dec. 2, 2000

Although journalists rarely failed in their duty to note the political affiliation of Katherine Harris, Florida's top election official, somehow "Democrat judge" never seemed to accompany many references to Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis-especially when Judge Lewis issued a Nov. 14 ruling that struck some as refreshingly courageous given the partisan atmosphere. Largely forgotten amid all the high-profile arguments and counter arguments at the state supreme court, Judge Lewis unambiguously backed Mrs. Harris's lawful declaration of a deadline for local election boards to provide final counts.

So who is Terry Lewis? He's a Tallahassee jurist, 48 years old, appointed to the bench by Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1988. When Mr. Lewis took the baton in what has become a judicial relay that will decide the race for the White House, Democrats hoped he might find a way to run in his own party's lane. Some pundits were surprised when it didn't turn out that way.

But that doesn't mean Mr. Lewis is a friend to conservatives. Until his election ruling, he was best known for overturning a state law, supported by pro-life Gov. Jeb Bush, requiring parental notification for under-age girls seeking abortions. "Not every minor comes from a Norman Rockwell family," Judge Lewis wrote. "Some minors have legitimate fears of physical and emotional abuse if their parents are consulted."

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Still, those who know him predicted that on the election issue, Mr. Lewis would rule by law, not by ideological bent. Friends described him as "a tough but fair competitor."

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