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Leif
11-17-2005, 06:34 PM
http://www.forbes.com/technology/feeds/ap/2005/11/17/ap2344635.html





Associated Press
Stem Cell Agency Wants Lawsuits Dismissed
11.17.2005, 04:42 PM


California's embattled stem cell agency on Thursday pleaded with a judge to toss out two lawsuits that have prevented it from borrowing the money it needs to dole out $3 billion in research grants.

It's been a little more than a year since voters passed Proposition 71, which created the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, but two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the agency have scared off potential lenders.

On Thursday, a lawyer with the California Attorney General's office asked Alameda County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Lewman Sabraw to throw out the lawsuits filed by politically conservative interest groups.

"We are here because the voters of this state enacted Proposition 71 last November and we haven't been able to do what the voters asked us to do because we are locked up in litigation," said Tamar Pachter, a deputy attorney general, imploring the judge to resolve the disputes.

Pachter said interest rates have risen .5 percent since the agency was prepared to borrow money, costing the state an estimated $15 million.

A ruling is expected at a later date.

The lawsuits allege, among other things, that the managers of the stem cell agency aren't state officials and many of them have conflicts of interest because of their ties to the biotechnology industry, or as employees of universities that will receive grants.

Stem cell agency officials said its managers would recuse themselves from deciding issues that concern their employers.

One of the lawsuits was filed by the People's Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation. The group is represented by the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which opposes abortion, and unsuccessfully fought in court earlier this year to keep a severely brain-damaged Florida woman alive in a high-profile right-to-die case.

Lawyers for the foundation denied agency charges that their suit was religiously motivated even though the group opposes human embryonic stem cell research on moral grounds.

The foundation argues that since agency board members are not elected, members aren't state officials and should be prohibited from doling out public funds.

The second lawsuit was filed by a newly created nonprofit called the California Family Bioethics Council, which describes itself as a stem cell research watchdog group.

"The conflict of interest is built into the selection process," said David Llewellyn, lawyer of the bioethics council.

The 29 members of the institute's Independent Citizens Oversight Committee are appointed by elected officials, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and by college administrators in California.

More on link above.

Leif
11-30-2005, 08:17 AM
http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051130/APF/511300543




Published Wednesday, November 30, 2005
document.title = unescape("Judge%27s%20ruling%20favors%20stem%20cell%20agency %2C%20but%20keeps%20lawsuits%20alive") + " | theledger.com";
Judge's ruling favors stem cell agency, but keeps lawsuits alive


By PAUL ELIAS
AP Biotechnology Writer
SAN FRANCISCO
An Alameda County judge ruled late Tuesday that the tax advocacy groups suing to eliminate the state's new $3 billion stem cell agency on grounds that it is unconstitutional will have to clear high legal hurdles to win the case.

Judge Bonnie Lewman Sabraw said the tax groups have to show that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is "clearly, positively and unmistakably unconstitutional," which they have failed to do so far.

Sabraw, however, declined to toss out the two similar lawsuits, which have succeeded in keeping the agency from borrowing the $3 billion it intends to dole out as research grants over the next 10 years.

Wall Street lenders have said they will not loan the agency any money until the legal challenges are resolved.

Bob Klein, the chairman committee that oversees the agency, said the ruling will help persuade wealthy philanthropists and nonprofit foundations to loan the agency up to $50 million until the lawsuits are dismissed.

Klein declined Tuesday to identify those potential lenders, but said he hopes to secure at least $15 million worth of bridge loans by January.

"We love this decision," Klein said. "It's not a home run, but it sets an extraordinarily high bar for the opposition to get over."

Lawyers for the tax groups couldn't be reached for comment late Tuesday.

The two lawsuits allege, among other things, that stem cell agency officials aren't state officials and many of them have conflicts of interest because of their ties to the biotechnology industry, or as employees of universities that will receive grants. They argued that it is unconstitutional for those officials to dole out public funds.

But the judge said Tuesday that the tax groups failed to show that the stem cell agency "lacks applicable legislative and executive controls."

One of the lawsuits was filed by the People's Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation. The group is represented by the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which opposes abortion, and unsuccessfully fought in court earlier this year to keep a severely brain-damaged Florida woman alive in a high-profile right-to-die case.

The judge ordered both sides to return to court Dec. 6 and promised to move the case to a conclusion as quickly as possible.

Leif
12-01-2005, 04:10 PM
http://www.sfexaminer.com/articles/2005/12/01//news//20051201_ne05_cell.txt




Stem cell center officials encouraged by ruling

Pending cases will now get their day in court

By Marisa Lagos (mlagos@examiner.com)
Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 11:01 PM PST
E-mail this story (http://www.sfexaminer.com/articles/2005/12/01/news/20051201_ne05_cell.eml) | Print this page (http://www.sfexaminer.com/articles/2005/12/01/news/20051201_ne05_cell.prt)


The California stem cell institute could secure funding as early as January, officials said Wednesday, following a court ruling in two lawsuits against the agency.

Since its creation last November, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has been unable to hand out a penny because the lawsuits are preventing investors from buying the bonds voters approved to fund it. In response, institute and state officials have been working to secure bond-anticipation notes — up to $50 million in loans from individuals and private foundations that would become grants if the lawsuits succeed.

At issue are two lawsuits, being considered in Alameda Superior Court together, which seek to invalidate the $3 billion, publicly funded stem cell institute on the basis that it violates the state constitution. The CIRM was created last November by the voter-approved Proposition 71, which established the new state agency to fund embryonic stem cell research with $3 billion in bonds to be repaid by taxpayers.

After Tuesday’s court decision, which makes a trial in the case almost certain, institute officials said they see the ruling as a victory and hope the state will approve those bond-anticipation notes early next year.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs also cheered Tuesday’s court decision, however, saying a trial will only hurt the defendants.

Tuesday’s court decision denied requests from both sides for an immediate ruling on the lawsuits, and instead set in motion the process necessary to bring the case to trial. The court stated that many of the plaintiff’s claims, including the central argument that the CIRM is outside state control and therefore violates the California Constitution, were not proven by evidence presented in the lawsuits.

CIRM board chairman Bob Klein said Wednesday that he reads the court decision as a partial victory for the agency, and hopes potential investors will as well. CIRM attorney James Harrison added that Sabaw’s decision “eliminated many of the claims the plaintiffs raised.”

California Deputy Attorney General Tamar Pachter, who will try the case, was less optimistic, but said the ruling puts the burden of proof “clearly on the plaintiffs,” and she is doubtful they will be able to satisfy that burden.

“It sets an extraordinarily high bar for the opposition,” Klein said, noting the judge also indicated her desire to move the case forward as quickly as possible. “It’s a very strong show of support, and it will help us a great deal with the [bond-anticipation notes].”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, however, said the ruling did not eliminate any of their claims, but rather asked them to prove those claims, with further evidence, at trial. They anticipate a trail could begin as early as next spring.

“It’s technically not a win for anybody,” said attorney Dana Cody, who is representing the taxpayers’ groups. “But we’re still thrilled this is moving forward … and that we will get to go to trial and give the public insight about what’s going on.”