Judge Combines Legal Challenges to Stem Cell Institute
Two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 71 will be consolidated into a single case to be heard in Alameda County Superior Court, Judge Bonnie Sabraw decided on Thursday, the Contra Costa Times reports. Sabraw already was presiding over one of the lawsuits.
Leaders of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the stem cell institute created under Proposition 71, had sought consolidation of the two lawsuits to help expedite rulings in the cases and avoid inconsistent rulings, the Times reports. The plaintiffs in the cases opposed consolidation.
The first lawsuit was filed in Alameda County by People's Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation. The suit alleges that Proposition 71 is unconstitutional because it allocates state funds to an agency not under the direct management or control of the state. Dana Codey of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, a group opposed to embryonic stem cell research and abortion, filed the lawsuit.
The second lawsuit was filed by attorney David Llewellyn in Sacramento on behalf of the California Family Bioethics Council. The suit alleges that funding should be blocked because members of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee have conflicts of interest with institutions that could receive grants. CIRM conflict-of-interest regulations differ from state statutes.
ICOC leaders said that they have adopted strong ethical guidelines and that plaintiffs are trying to end the program and block stem cell research.
State officials said they cannot issue bonds under Proposition 71 until all legal challenges are settled. However, ICOC leaders are considering a plan to issue $200 million in bond anticipation notes in the interim.
Llewellyn said he likely would take legal action to try and block the sale of the bond anticipation notes.
Deputy Attorney General Tamar Pachter said that even with the consolidation, it is unlikely that a court decision will be reached until 2006 (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 8/5).