A Riverside resident filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court last week seeking to convince a judge to prevent the Illinois Department of Health from doling out some $10 million to the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute (IRMI) for stem cell research.
On April 6, Richard Caro appeared before Judge James F. Henry to petition the court to allow the suit, which asked for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction preventing the money being awarded on April 17.
Henry not only allowed the suit, but ruled that he will hear arguments in the case and may rule on awarding Caro a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order tomorrow. If the court denies the injunction, Caro said he will immediately appeal the ruling.
“My gut feeling is that he’ll be making a ruling Thursday,” Caro said.
The lawsuit alleges that the executive order issued by Gov. Rod Blagojevich on July 12, 2005, which created the IRMI was unconstitutional since there was no legislative action establishing its creation or funding.
Blagojevich announced that he was creating the stem-cell research program after state legislators earlier had failed to pass a bill that would have created a $1 billion program for stem cell research.
However, on June 10, 2005 Blagojevich signed a spending bill that included a line item for $10 million for “grants and related expenses of hospitals and universities for scientific research.”
Caro said that the language in the spending bill was intentionally vague “so that an executive order could be issued requiring the money be used for the IRMI stem-call grant program.”
At the July 12, 2005 press conference announcing the creation of IRMI, Blagojevich announced that the program would receive $10 million in funding. Both the appropriation and creation of IRMI without approval from state lawmakers, Caro contends, circumvents the legislative process.
In the suit, Caro claims that Blagojevich, in his press conference of July 12, 2005 “made statements acknowledging that he was knowingly and intentionally proceeding contrary to established principles and practices of American constitutional democracy.”
Blagojevich in late March reintroduced a bill in the state legislature to provide an additional $100 million in funding for stem-cell research over the next five years.
“I can’t speak for others, but I just think the constitution should be honored and respected,” Caro said. “You have to honor the constitutional system first.”
Thomas Ioppolo, one of two lawyers representing the State of Illinois in the case, did not respond to a request for the state’s position on the matter.
Caro also said that the lawsuit is not attacking the value of such a state agency, and added that he supports most forms of stem-cell research. He does not support embryonic stem-cell research.
“I would have liked Illinois to be the first state in the nation to form a stem call bank, where every time a child was born, doctors could harvest stem cells found in the placenta and umbilical cord,” Caro said. “I don’t have a moral objection to that; it’s a wonderful use.”
Framing the suit as a “David and Goliath” story, Caro said he resorted to the suit after Illinois Department of Health officials announced last month that the $10 million in grants from IRMI would be awarded on April 17.
“I thought after all the controversy last summer and fall, somebody would do something,” Caro said.
While Caro has filed the complaint as a private taxpayer, he’s not unfamiliar with the workings of the courts. In fact, Caro is an attorney licensed to practice in the state of New York and in federal courts.
According to his Web site, Caro specializes in federal civic litigation. For six years before establishing his own private practice, Caro was an assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York-Civil Division.