Lawsuit To Prevent Spending For Stem Cell Research Moot On Appeal

Richard Caro wanted to prevent Illinois funds from being spent for stem cell research. The research had been mandated by the governor’s executive orders. Caro sued the Director of the Illinois Department of Health to prevent him from disbursing funds for that purpose. The trial court ruled that the case presented a political question, not a question of law that the court could legitimately decide. So the trial court dismissed the case.

Caro appealed, but before the appellate court considered the case, the Director awarded more than $9 million in grants for stem cell research. Caro wanted the appeal heard anyway, “to work out the appropriate corrective remedy.” The Director wanted the appeal dismissed. He argued that the case was moot because the money already had been disbursed.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed that the case was moot. The appellate court ruled that it could not give Caro what he wanted. Here’s what the court said:

Here, in our view, it is not possible for this court to grant the plaintiff the relief requested on appeal. We cannot reverse the trial court’s dismissal and remand this case for further proceedings on a complaint that sought … to prevent the defendant, Dr. Whitaker [Director], from awarding the research grants. As the defendant states and the plaintiff concedes, the grants were awarded in 2006. Simply put, “[a] court cannot prevent what has already been done.”

Caro argued that the case fell under the “public interest” exception to the mootness doctrine. But the appellate court disagreed because “this is not a case where “the magnitude or immediacy of the interests involved warrant[s] action by the court.”

Nor was this the kind of case in which “the situation presented … is likely to recur.” The appellate court explained: “There is no indication in this record that the Governor has or intends to use executive orders in the future to create another new agency within the Department for the same purpose as in this case. Therefore, there is little likelihood that the precise circumstances that gave rise to the plaintiff’s instant complaint would recur, requiring us to intervene.”

So the appellate court dismissed Caro’s appeal. Read the whole case, Caro v. Whitaker, No. 1-06-1243 (11/4/08), by clicking here.

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