The costly legal battle between taxpayer-supported UCSD and private Los Angeles–based University of Southern California continues to slowly wind its way through federal court here, as lawyers for both sides run up more billable hours. UCSD launched the courthouse war last summer after the school’s Alzheimer’s disease research chief Paul Aisen abruptly quit to work for USC, asserting that the state-owned UCSD was jeopardizing his program by gouging on overhead fees.
After a few months in state court, where a judge friendly to UCSD ruled that USC would have to turn over custody of certain research data to the La Jolla university, the case was moved to downtown’s federal courthouse. There, a January “early neutral evaluation conference” between the parties resulted in an apparent victory for USC, which was allowed to retain control of the bulk of Aisen’s research data as the schools continued their legal wrangling.
Before the agreement, UCSD and USC had tangled over the computerized information, with UCSD lawyer Dan Sharp saying the other side had “refused to cooperate in the restoration of the [Alzheimer’s] Data and Systems, and refused to provide passwords or control of accounts housing the data.” Replied USC’s attorney John B. Quinn, “Speaking frankly, there is no one left at UCSD who is competent to run these programs. To deliver it over to their control without the court’s supervision is an invitation to disaster.”
Now comes word of more than a slight delay in implementing the putative settlement. “The parties have been working together in good faith since the signing of the…Stipulation and have made good progress,” the court’s Special Master David Garrett, who is supervising the legal combat over the data, wrote federal district judge Jill Burkhardt on February 12. “However, it does not appear that all steps…will be complete by February 15, which is a target date set forth in the stipulation.” Continued Garrett, “I do not believe there is a need for Court involvement at this time. We simply wanted to notify the Court that the parties will need additional time to finalize the steps set forth” in the agreement.