Saturday, April 22, 2006

CIRM Fends Off Legal Challenge; Round Two Coming Up

As expected, the California stem cell agency won the first round in its legal battle against fundamentalist and conservative foes who claim it is unconstitutional.

The decision attracted news coverage internationally and is likely to enhance efforts by CIRM to sell unprecedented state notes to finance its activities. The legal action against the agency has blocked its financing until the appeals are concluded, perhaps in 12 months or so.

CIRM has scratched hard to keep going without its voter-authorized funding, including a plans for a controversial $1 million gala fundraiser.

Coverage of the decision was straight-forward with few surprises. Here is how the largest circulation paper in the state, the Los Angeles Times, reported the decision in a piece by Lee Romney:
"(Judge Bonnie) Sabraw forcefully rejected the challengers' key contention: that the Stem Cell Research and Cures Act violated the state Constitution by creating a publicly funded entity that was not "under the exclusive management and control" of the state.

"'Plaintiffs did not present any evidence that the state is appropriating funds for any purpose or benefit other than a public purpose — the public purpose declared in Prop. 71 of fighting disease and promoting the general economy of the state," she wrote.

"She also concluded that the institute and its oversight board 'are operating in the same fashion as other state agencies,' with adequate state oversight.

"Sabraw also systematically rejected all other claims by the plaintiffs — People's Advocate, the National Tax Limitation Foundation and the California Family Bioethics Council. Among those: that the stem cell institute's board is plagued by conflicts of interest and that voters were misled.

"Hank Greely, a law professor and chairman of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, called the opinion 'long and careful' but not surprising. 'I thought the cases were very weak to begin with. I think the judge's opinion bears that out,' he said.

"Greely added that the ruling could give more confidence to investors whom (stem cell chairman Robert) Klein is soliciting to purchase bond-anticipation notes to help fund the institute and its work during the litigation. Buyers of the never-before-issued state bonds would be repaid only if the litigation is resolved in the state's favor and general obligation bonds are issued."
Klein said in a press release:
"CIRM’s first grants equaled 50 percent of the entire national funding of the NIH for embryonic stem cell research for last year. Stem cell research in California has officially begun. We will win in this fight against a small and politically motivated minority, step by step. They will not keep medical research from improving the lives of millions of people. We owe it to the voters, we owe it to patients, we owe it to the families of California."
Here are links to other stories on the decision: The Associated Press (the New York Times carried the AP story, which was also distributed worldwide), The Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, Bloomberg, Contra Costa Times and Reuters.

Here are links to various press releases reacting to the decision: Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Alliance for Stem Cell Research and Stanford University.

If you would like a complete copy of the decision, please email djensen@californiastemcellreport.com. It will take several days to respond because of the nature of Internet availability here in Mexico. Sphere: Related Content

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