Appeals Court Stays Decision Blocking Stem Cell Research

Today, a three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit stayed the court decision stopping federal funding of embroyic stem cell research:

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a request from the Justice Department to stay an injunction issued Aug. 23 blocking the funding. In a major victory for supporters of the research, the court said the Obama administration could resume funding the research pending a full appeal of the case.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, ruling in a lawsuit filed by two researchers working on alternatives to the cells, said the funding violated a federal rule that prohibits federal tax money from being used for research that involves the destruction of human embryos.

Significantly, the stay order was handed down by a unanimous panel of Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson, Janice Rogers Brown, and Thomas Griffith. All three of these judges are conservatives, and Judge Brown is arguably the most conservative judge in the country. Moreover, to stay a decision a panel is supposed to determine that the party requesting the stay has “made a strong showing that they are likely to succeed on the merits.” Such a determination does not guarantee that the stayed decision will ultimately be reversed — the panel which stayed the decision striking down Prop 8 also strongly hinted that their court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case — but today’s stay decision is a very hopeful sign that stem cell research will be able to move forward.



To clarify, today’s order is only a temporary stay issued until the court has “sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the emergency motion for stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion.” Accordingly, the stay could be lifted, and research funding would be cut off once again.