by Steven Ertelt
August 5, 2005
Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) — A California judge on Thursday combined two lawsuits seeking to stop funds from the group set up by Proposition 71 from distributing grants for human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Groups filing the lawsuits say the committee set up by the ballot proposal has violated various state laws.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Sabraw decided to transfer a Sacramento case to her courtroom and combine it with another lawsuit she’s about to hear. Backers of the controversial committee were hopeful she would do that to expedite the case so they can begin raising money for the grants.
The first lawsuit, filed in Alameda County by People’s Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation, taxpayers groups, says Proposition 71 is unconstitutional because state money goes to an agency that is not directly under the management or control of the state.
The second, filed in Sacramento by attorney David Llewellyn on behalf of the California Family Bioethics Council, seeks to stop the grants on the argument that members of the committee have conflicts of interest because they are among those who will likely be recipients of the $3 billion in tax dollars.
"We don’t want them to get any funding at all — whether it’s bonds or money from the state treasury — because they are not a state agency," who filed the Alameda lawsuit.
Talking about his lawsuit, Llewellyn told the Contra Costa Times newspaper, "We’re very concerned that this $3 billion is going to go to people who have inside status."
James Harrison, a lawyer representing the panel, said the decision means the group will have to fight only one lawsuit battle and Sabraw’s decision would expedite the process. However, a decision is unlikely to be handed down until early next year.
Advocates of embryonic stem cell research deplore the lawsuits because they have effectively shut down the initial round of grants planned for May. The committee can’t sell bonds to raise money for the grants with the lawsuit pending because they could wind up being worthless.
As a result, the committee has obtained a $3 million loan from the state and received a $5 million donation from audio equipment magnate Thomas Dolby.
They’re hoping to disburse the first grants this fall for a training program for students studying embryonic stem cell research.
The committee also hopes to sell $200 million in bond anticipation notes that could be purchased by disease-fighting charitable groups that back embryonic stem cell research. Should the bonds lose their value, they could write off the losses on their taxes.
However, Llewellyn and Cody promise additional legal filings if that happens.