California Embryonic Stem Cell Research Initiative Gets Appeal Hearing

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 15, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Embryonic Stem Cell Research Initiative Gets Appeal Hearing Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 15
, 2007

San Francisco, CA ( — A state appeals court held a hearing Wednesday on the lawsuit brought against Proposition 71, the ballot measure that created the state agency that would spend billions of taxpayer dollars on embryonic stem cell research. A judge previously ruled the proposition was constitutional.

Two consumer groups filed a lawsuit against the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine saying it does not have proper oversight from the state on spending its monies, as required by the state constitution.

It also contends the members of the committee were chosen on the basis of their affiliations with certain institutions, not on the basis of their personal qualifications.

The lawsuit resulted in a trial last year in the Alameda County Superior Court, where a judge upheld the proposition. The groups then appealed the case to the First Appellate District.

A three judge panel held a hearing on the case Wednesday, but their comments and questions made it appear they would not side with Proposition 71 opponents.

David Llewellyn, a lawyer for the California Family Bioethics Council, argued that the proposition also violated a constitutional rule that ballot proposals have just one subject.

But Justice Stuart Pollak and Justice Peter Siggins seemed to think Prop. 71 didn’t run afoul of that requirement.

Deputy Attorney General Tamar Pachter told the court the intent of the initiative was clear, according to a San Diego Union Tribune report.

“In November 2004, when voters approved Proposition 71, they knew what they were voting for: a public institute that would raise money through the issuance of bonds to fund research that is not funded by the federal government,” Pachter said. “There is no single-subject defect in the law.”

People’s Advocate lawyer Robert Taylor argued the members of the committee are not held accountable by the public.

The lawsuits have prevented the committee from selling bonds and raising the large sums of money it expected to have doled out by now in the forms of grants to scientists and research institutes.

Should the appeals court rule against them, the consumer groups said they would take their case to the state Supreme Court, which would delay the committee’s fundraising further.

The appeals court is expected to rule in 90 days but it could lengthen that time if it asks both sides for more legal papers in the case.