A federal judge denied President Barack Obama’s emergency motion to overturn an injunction halting federal funding for stem cell research Tuesday, turning over the fight to individual states and legal authorities.
Obama and his administration filed the emergency motion Aug. 31 to stop the injunction because of “the magnitude of harms occurring each day that the preliminary injunction remains in effect.”
Judge Royce Lamberth of the federal court of the District of Columbia, who issued the original injunction, denied the motion, noting the court doubted Obama’s claim of a “parade of horribles” likely to result from the injunction.
Lamberth also said much of Obama’s motion was inaccurate.
Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesperson William Cosh said his department needs more information before joining the fight.
“Before a decision can be made about signing on to any lawsuit, the legal merits and arguments must be reviewed for their merit and sound legal basis,” Cosh said. “We’ve told the governor’s office what we need and, if we receive it, we’ll follow our normal, prudent process and review the matter on an expedited basis.”
The Department of Justice has not yet received any information necessary to file a lawsuit, Cosh said.
Cosh said it would be irresponsible to step into a complicated, highly-charged dispute before having adequate facts and information.
Obama’s next move is to either appeal the court’s decision to a higher court or ask Congress to amend the original rider that allows for Lamberth’s ruling, said William Church, professor of law at the University of Wisconsin.
Obama could also file a separate suit through a new plaintiff and in another court, Church added.
Some professors at the university argue that the need for other actions to end the injunction is urgent; in the meantime alternate sources of funding separate from the federal government are slow to appear.
“We still have some hope that [the injunction] will be lifted,” Tim Kamp, professor of medicine at the UW Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, said. “Certainly we’re looking to enhance private support for this research through philanthropy and discretionary sources, but these streams do not come quickly — certainly not as quickly as the disruption that this federal injunction has caused.”
Now that Obama’s motion was denied, individual departments at the university will most likely be seeking solutions to the strain the injunction has caused.
Because federal funds pay for many university labs and accompanying equipment and utilities, a “firewall” will need to be established to prevent privately-funded research from overlapping with federally-funded research, Kamp said.
As a public school, the university will follow any progress made by the Department of Justice if they decide to accept Gov. Jim Doyle’s vow to take legal action, Kamp said.
“It is a particularly challenging time, but an opportunity for the university to move forward in the most productive fashion — perhaps through legislative actions or legal approaches,” Kamp said.