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Former MIT adult stem cell researcher resumes fight against human embryonic stem cell funding

James L. Sherley is at it again. When a court decided in July that the NIH could indeed fund human embryonic stem cell research, and that they were not violating a Congressional appropriations rider to do so, Sherley and his co-plaintiff, Theresa A. Deisher, said they would appeal.

On Monday, Sept. 19, that appeal was filed. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has set the schedule:

• Oct. 20, 2011: Sherley’s statement of issues to be raised, and procedural motions and administrivia from both sides.

• Nov. 4, 2011: Motions for summary judgement or motions to dismiss, from both sides.

The July ruling was heavily based on an interim ruling from a three-judge panel of the appeals court. That ruling dismissed an earlier preliminary injunction in the case, and concluded that research using existing human embryonic stem cell lines did not fall under Congress’ prohibition on funding research in which embryos are destroyed.

The appeal is unlikely to be before the same panel of judges, but Sherley will have an uphill battle. It is unlikely that the appeals court will change its position.

This case has been ongoing since August 2009, when Sherley, Deisher, and several now-excluded co-plaintiffs first filed the suit.

Sherley is the former MIT biomedical engineering professor who was denied tenure in 2004 and left MIT after a hunger strike in 2006. Sherley, who is black, alleged racial discrimination on the part of MIT.
—John A. Hawkinson

Judiciary announces page rate increase for electronic court documents

The Federal Judiciary announced last Tuesday (Sept. 13) it would increase the per-page charge to retrieve electronic court documents from $0.08 per page to $0.10 per page. Court documents are available through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) at http://pacer.uscourts.gov. Congress requires the judiciary to fund PACER exclusively through fees, they said.

David Sellers, a spokesman for the judiciary, said the fees are “at the level necessary to operate” the system. There was no explicit opportunity for the public to comment on the fee increase, he said.

In recent years, it has been easier to avoid PACER fees by using RECAP, a project of Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy that allows PACER users to upload purchased documents to a public web site, and provides a Firefox plugin to assist in the administrative process. See http://
recapthelaw.org for more details.

John A. Hawkinson