Habeas Corpus Experts Offer Support for Chimpanzee Rights Cases As Nonhuman Rights Project Seeks To Appeal To New York’s Highest Court
March 8, 2018—New York, NY—The Nonhuman Rights Project announced today that legal advocacy organization the Center for Constitutional Rights and law professors Laurence H. Tribe (Harvard Law), Justin Marceau (University of Denver Sturm College of Law), and Samuel R. Wiseman (Florida State University College of Law) have submitted amicus curiae briefs in support of the NhRP’s motion for permission to appeal to New York’s highest court in the cases of captive chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko. Their amicus briefs follow the amicus brief submitted Feb. 23 in support of the NhRP by a group of seventeen philosophers with expertise in animal ethics, animal political theory, and the philosophy of animal cognition and behavior.
All four briefs—both the brief submitted by philosophers and the three briefs submitted by Tribe, Marceau and Wiseman, and CCR, respectively—urge the Court of Appeals to hear Tommy’s and Kiko’s cases.
NhRP President Steven M. Wise applauded the filing of these amicus briefs: “These law professors and the Center for Constitutional Rights have developed significant and well-respected expertise in habeas corpus cases that the New York Court of Appeals can rely upon in determining whether it should grant the NhRP’s request for permission to hear its appeal.”
The brief submitted by Laurence H. Tribe (Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professional of Constitutional Law at Harvard University) asks the Court of Appeals to “recognize that Tommy and Kiko are autonomous beings who are currently detained and who are therefore entitled to challenge the lawfulness of their detention by petitioning for the writ, even if that court ultimately concludes that their detention is lawful.” This is the third such brief Tribe has submitted in support of the NhRP.
The brief submitted by Justin Marceau (Professor Of Constitutional and Criminal Law at University Of Denver Sturm College Of Law) and Samuel R. Wiseman (Professor of Constitutional and Criminal Law at Florida State University College Of Law) also exhorts the Court to allow Tommy and Kiko to use habeas corpus to challenge the legality of their detention in part because, as they write, “throughout this nation’s history, habeas corpus has had a symbolic and practical role in bringing about an end to social practices that are outdated or unjust” and “applying habeas corpus to non-human animals like Tommy and Kiko, is consistent with the Writ’s historical uses.” This is the second such brief Marceau and Wiseman have submitted in support of the NhRP.
In its brief, CCR—which successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that the detainees at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba have the right to habeas corpus —likewise emphasizes the importance of the writ, used for centuries to ensure that individuals aren’t illegally and unjustly confined:
Just as the courts scrutinized the President’s claimed authority to create a prison outside the law where human beings could be detained and abused without the scrutiny of the judicial branch … the New York Court of Appeals should take this opportunity to carefully scrutinize the Respondent’s legal authority to detain a non-human individual under the many relevant lines of legal precedent and scientific evidence recognizing a Chimpanzee’s capacity for autonomy and self-determination before summarily denying habeas personhood to Tommy and Kiko.
This is the second such brief CCR has submitted in support of the NhRP.
The NhRP filed common law habeas petitions on behalf of Tommy and Kiko with the New York Supreme Court, New York County in December of 2015 and January of 2016, respectively, seeking recognition of their clients’ legal personhood and fundamental right to bodily liberty and their immediate transfer to Save the Chimps sanctuary.
After the Supreme Court denied the petitions, the NhRP appealed to the Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, which heard oral argument in March of 2017. Three months later, the First Department denied the petition in a ruling whose numerous legal errors the NhRP detailed in the Memorandum of Law that accompanied the NhRP’s motion asking the First Department for permission to take the case to the Court of Appeals. The First Department denied this motion, and so the NhRP is appealing directly to the Court of Appeals.
No action on the briefs is expected until and unless the Court of Appeals grants the NhRP’s motion for permission to appeal.
Click here for Tommy’s court case timeline and here for Kiko’s court case timeline, including detailed histories of the NhRP’s first and second round of habeas petitions on behalf of the two chimpanzees.
CASE NO. Tommy: Index. No. 162358/15 (New York County)/Kiko: Index. No. 150149/16 (New York County)
CASE NAMES: THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC., on behalf of TOMMY, Petitioner-Appellant, -against- PATRICK C. LAVERY, individually and as an officer of Circle L Trailer Sales, Inc., DIANE L. LAVERY, and CIRCLE L TRAILER SALES, INC., Respondents-Respondents.
THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC., on behalf of KIKO, Petitioner-Appellant, -against- CARMEN PRESTI, individually and as an officer and director of The Primate Sanctuary, Inc., CHRISTIE E. PRESTI, individually and as an officer and director of The Primate Sanctuary, Inc., and THE PRIMATE SANCTUARY, INC., Respondents-Respondents.