Judge Issues Ruling in California in Favor of CIRM
Sorry I didn’t get to blog yesterday, I was on full-time mom duty for the last day of spring break. My son has just learned to ride a 2 wheel bike, so there was a lot of showing me things outside. I’m pretty proud….
Anyway, while my little domestic life was going its merry way, the judge in the California lawsuits against the CIRM issued her ruling. According to the San Francisco Chronicle
, Judge Bonnie Lewman Sabraw ruled that,
the structure of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine did not
violate state law. Although the governing body of the agency includes
representatives of research centers that are likely to apply for the stem cell
grants, Sabraw said, the plaintiffs presented no evidence that the institute
serves the private interests of those universities and research organizations.
It serves the public purpose endorsed by the voters -- fighting disease and
stimulating the state's biotech economy, the judge held.
An attorney for one of the plaintiffs, the Family Bioethics Counsel, said an appeal is likely.
The money cannot begin to be disbursed directly yet, and an appeal will further delay it, but it will probably be easier for the CIRM to borrow money now through the form of bond-anticipation notes than it has been.
An AP story in the Washington Post
(and other papers) reports that the ruling will become final in 10 days “unless the losing attorneys present new and dramatically different arguments.” The AP story called the ruling “unambiguous.” Which is of course not what the plaintiffs think; one attorney said it had “curiosities.” I don’t know what the legal definition of a curiosity is! The appeal may go straight to the state Supreme Court.
The Los Angeles Times quoted a plaintiff’s attorney for the Life Legal Defense Fund as being disappointed but not surprised by the ruling. It also quoted Stanford bioethicist Hank Greely as also unsurprised: “I thought the cases were very weak to begin with. I think the judge's opinion bears that out.” According to the LA Time, Sabraw’s decision “systematically” rejected all claims made by the plaintiffs.
This is obviously really really important news. I hope that the appeal does go straight to the Supreme Court, as that will speed things up. Certainly it is important to have oversight and to avoid conflicts of interest, especially where so much money is concerned, but it’s also important to the very core of our judicial system that sound law not be overturned on the basis on an ideological dispute. I should say here that I agree with Martin Luther King Jr. that it is a moral imperative to disobey immoral laws, and clearly some opponents of embryonic stem cell research will think that is what this is. However, the law was not challenged on the basis of it providing for embryonic stem cell research—it was challenged on the basis of constitutionality related to structure and tax payer money. A challenge to the ethics or morals of the law itself needs to be mounted directly and not concealed behind some other issue.
And I grant that there may not be a judicial process in place for challenging a law on the basis of thinking it immoral. That is done on a grassroots level and on the level of social discourse and open debates of conscience. That doesn’t appear to be happening in California on this issue, at least not right now.
The ruling is not posted on the Court’s website yet.