On June 6, 2017, in Tommy’s and Kiko’s cases, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department denied the Nonhuman Rights Project’s supplemental motion for leave to file with the court a letter and reply that point out a significant error the Third Judicial Department made in its December 2014 ruling in chimpanzee Tommy’s case.
The purpose of the supplemental motion was to bring to the attention of the court the fact that in April 2017, after oral argument in Tommy’s and Kiko’s cases, the NhRP discovered a longstanding error in Black’s Law Dictionary’s definition of a legal “person.” Black’s Law Dictionary is the source the Lavery court relied on in rejecting the NhRP’s argument that a “person” need only have the capacity to bear “rights OR duties” rather than the capacity to bear “rights AND duties,” as the Lavery court held in order to deny personhood to Tommy.
In the first letter, sent April 6, 2017, NhRP Executive Director Kevin Schneider notified the editor-in-chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, Bryan Garner, of the NhRP’s discovery in the Library of Congress of the source that Black’s Law Dictionary had itself misinterpreted. In an emailed response sent the same day, Garner thanked Schneider for drawing the error to his attention and wrote that he had “marked it for correction in the [next] edition.”
Yes! Magazine details how the NhRP discovered this error and how “rights for many intelligent animals could hinge on a one-word edit in a law dictionary” in an article published April 28, 2017.
As we await the court’s ruling in Tommy’s and Kiko’s cases, we have no way of knowing what, if anything, the First Judicial Department’s denial of our supplemental motion will mean for the decision.