Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Stem Cell Trial Date Set, Legal Coffers Replenished

The California stem cell agency goes on trial Feb. 27 in California's "Apricot City."

Judge Bonnie Lewman Sabraw set the date today, according to stem cell agency officials, fulfilling her promise to expedite proceedings in the lawsuits that have blocked funding of $3 billion in stem research grants, approved by California voters 13 months ago.

The lawsuits were filed by anti-tax groups and another group that was a key player in the Schiavo case. The stem cell foes contend the agency is unconstitutional although it was created by voters in a constitutional procedure. (See "Showdown in Apricot City.")

The judge told lawyers to return Dec. 13 with plans for discovery of evidence. Completion of discovery was scheduled for Jan. 3.

At a meeting of the CIRM Oversight Committee in Duarte, stem cell chairman Robert Klein expressed pleasure with the legal schedule. He has been trying to sell bond anticipation notes to provide interim financing for the agency. A quick trial and decision will help eliminate investor uncertainty about the financial instruments.

Following announcement of the news at today's meeting of the CIRM Oversight Committee, the panel approved an additional $252,000 for outside legal help, most of which will go for contesting the challenge to the existence of the agency.

Claire Pomeroy, an Oversight Committee member and dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine, said the lawsuit has forced the agency to divert funds from possible research, indicating that voters would be irate at impact of the tactics of the stem cell foes.

Nonetheless, we suspect the agency's opponents are delighted that they are stalling the agency and preventing it from spending money on research. After all, one earlier version of the litigation, filed by David Llewellyn, a Citrus Heights, Ca., attorney, alleged that loopholes exist in the Prop. 71 that would permit the funding of "test tube babies, or even adult human beings, for body parts, companionship or a permanent worker class of subhuman beings (a la Aldous Huxley's Brave New World)” despite the measure's ban on human reproductive cloning. The ludicrous assertion was clearly aimed at stirring up irrational fears among the constituencies that support the foes of CIRM. (see the Feb. 23 item called "Illegal" on this blog.)

A quick and favorable trial decision certainly will help the agency to peddle its notes, but the case is expected to be appealed by whichever side loses. One estimate predicts that the legal matters will not be completely settled until 2007.

The official name of the Apricot City, by the way, is Hayward, which is an Alameda County community once better known for its fine fruit than stem cell shenanigans. Sphere: Related Content

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