Drs. James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnology are the plaintiffs in the case. They contend that embryonic stem cell research funding violates the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, a provision included each year in the Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill.
The amendment prohibits federal funding for research in which human embryos are “knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”
The Notice of Appeal was filed on September 19 by Jubilee Campaign's Law of Life Project and their co-counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Casey told CNA in a Sept. 23 interview that the merits of the case are clear. The problem, he explained, is that “this case as far as the Court of Appeals is concerned has nothing to do with the merits.”
Rather, he continued, the lawsuit has been bogged down with technicalities, first involving the legal standing of the plaintiff and now by a principle known as the Chevron deference doctrine, which holds that when a court believes the meaning of a statue to be ambiguous, it should defer to the government agency responsible for the statute for interpretation.
This doctrine was called into play when the Court of Appeals ruled that the meaning of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment was ambiguous. As a result, explained Casey, the court decided that each administration can determine the interpretation of the amendment, and these interpretations can change from one administration to another, even though the words of the law have not changed.