I wrote yesterday about the dismissal of the lawsuit against federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Now Stanford law professor and bioethicist Hank Greely, JD, has an in-depth look at the case and what could come next:
I thought this was a graceful, gracious, and fully professional opinion by Judge Lamberth. The poor man had been been reserved twice by the DC Circuit, in different directions. He did not attempt to play games with the latest Circuit decision and follow its letter while avoiding its intent. While making it clear that he thought he had been right, he did what a judge is a supposed to do in applying the law in light of his position in the judiciary hierarchy.
As a former scientist and science writer, it’s really fascinating to view the legal side of how court cases like these work. I’m learning a lot about the judicial process. And it appears my education isn’t over yet, according to Greely, who asks:
So now what?
The plaintiffs could do four things:
1. Ask Judge Lamberth to reconsider his decision: Good luck with that.
2. Appeal to the DC Circuit: I think this is likely.
3. Ask the US Supreme Court to take the case directly: Good luck with that, too – the Court does that very rarely and only in real emergencies.
4 Quit: I doubt it.
It looks like an appeal could drag out this process even longer–as detailed in Greely’s post. But I can’t leave you this time without also calling attention to a related post today on Science Progress by Jonathan Moreno:
Stepping back from this legal meandering, the larger importance of this incident lies in the fact that only research on biology has been subject to such a challenge. Even at the fever pitch of our culture wars, no advocates have thought to bring suit against the federal government for funding, say, geological studies that confirmed that the earth is more than 6,000 years old. Indeed, from the infamous Scopes “monkey” trial to present-day creationism lawsuits, biology (in particular, the teaching of evolution) has been the wedge into literal readings of the Biblical period of creation. The fact is that modern biology is threatening in ways that the physical sciences are not, a challenge for a country that is both founded on the promise of science and needs science to sustain its leadership role in the 21st century.
As a church-going, science-loving believer of evolution and biology (hey, we do exist!), I say Amen to that. But it’s a challenge that can be overcome. Right?