California Stem Cell Research Panel Wants Quick End to Lawsuits

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 15, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Stem Cell Research Panel Wants Quick End to Lawsuits Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 15, 2005

Sacramento, CA ( — Leaders of the California committee created by Proposition 71 to distribute $6 billion in taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research and human cloning want two laws filed against it to go away so it can get down to business.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer admitted in a legal brief filed with the California Supreme Court on Monday that the grants could not be awarded until the lawsuits are resolved. The committee hoped to present its first awards in May.

Lockyer, who is representing the agency, said the two lawsuits have "no merit" and urged the state’s high court to issue a ruling quickly so the committee can remain on schedule.

"Because Proposition 71 is funded exclusively by bond proceeds, blocking issuance of the bonds by filing a constitutional challenge — even a challenge that is ultimately judged to be without merit — is an extremely effective way to prevent implementation of Proposition 71," Lockyer wrote.

Lockyer also doesn’t want to have the case first proceed through lower courts, as normally occurs, because it would delay the eventual decision.

That’s likely to happen because the two groups that filed the lawsuits asked the California Supreme Court to have jurisdiction in the case.

Ted Costa of People’s Advocate, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit, told the Sacramento Bee that the stem cell agency should "go in to the Legislature and the governor to ask for oversight so they can pass constitutional muster."

His lawsuit says the agency violates California law because it is not governed by the state. It also says that state and University of California officials were able to appoint members of the committee, but have no power to remove them.

Californians for Public Accountability and Ethical Science, a newly created nonprofit group filed a second lawsuit and the group is backed by one of the people originally involved in the campaign to pass Proposition 71.

The CPAES lawsuit alleges that the stem cell panel is violating conflict of interest laws by exempting some members from holding seats on the panel who are officials with biotech firms or research universities who stand to benefit from grants from the agency.

The lawsuit also says Prop. 71 failed to address a single subject as state law requires of ballot issues.

David Llewellyn, the Sacramento attorney representing the plaintiffs, says Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, who was president of the "No on 71" campaign, and Joni Eareckson Tada, a pro-life paraplegic, are behind the CPAES group and lawsuit.

"People need to get the message that this proposition is an enormous expenditure of money in a financially strapped state for human embryo research that is increasingly seen as problematic and hypothetical," Tada said in a statement about the suit.

Fiona Hutton, a representative of the stem cell panel, told the Bee newspaper that the agency would continue to hire staff and move forward with other work.

Related web sites:
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