Deputy Attorney General Asks Judge To Dismiss Lawsuits Against Stem Cell Agency
Deputy Attorney General Tamar Pachter on Thursday asked an Alameda County Superior Court judge to dismiss two lawsuits that seek to invalidate sections of Proposition 71, which voters approved in November 2004 to fund stem cell research, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Pachter said the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is operating under state oversight and within guidelines established to prevent conflicts of interest (Tansey, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/18). In addition, Pachter said the lawsuits are costing the state an additional $15 million because bond rates have increased by 0.5% since CIRM was prepared to borrow money (Elias, AP/Orange County Register, 11/18).
In one lawsuit, filed by the National Tax Limitation Foundation and the anti-tax group People's Advocate, opponents of Proposition 71 allege that it does not provide adequate state oversight (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 11/18). The suit claims that the structure of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee violates state law because it allows money to be distributed by an entity "not under the exclusive management and control of the state." The lawsuit also alleges conflicts of interest among ICOC members (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/18).
A separate suit, filed on behalf of the California Family Bioethics Council, alleges that CIRM board members have a conflict of interest because many represent organizations that will seek grants for stem cell research. The suit alleges that changes to conflict-of-interest requirements were not made clear to voters.
Judge Bonnie Sabraw likely will rule on the matter soon, the Times reports. If she declines to dismiss the lawsuits, the cases would proceed to trial in a process that could take a year or longer, according to the Times (Contra Costa Times, 11/18).
CIRM Chair Robert Klein said the agency might be able to raise as much as $50 million in state bond anticipation notes to begin awarding grants. Klein said individual investors and foundations are willing to purchase the notes, although they risk not being repaid if the stem cell program is declared unconstitutional (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/18).
NPR's "Day to Day" on Wednesday examined the lawsuits. The NPR segment includes comments from:
- CIRM President Zach Hall;
- David Llewellyn, an attorney for the California Family Bioethics Council; and
- Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies (Varney, "Day to Day," NPR, 11/16).