A fundamental task of the Nonhuman Rights Project is to demand that courts reject a legal status quo that has irrationally and unjustly considered all nonhuman animals legal “things” with no rights for thousands of years.
Because of the historical enormity of this task—including the fact that our cases are the first time most judges will have encountered arguments in support of nonhuman personhood and rights—when we go into court, we not only expect intense questioning, we welcome it. We consider it an honor to have the opportunity to address judges’ skepticism and fully demonstrate the social, historical, political, and legal justice of what we are asking them to do and how it accords with existing law.
Intense questioning is exactly what we encountered this week in the Connecticut Appellate Court, as any of the folks who joined us to show support for our client Minnie’s fundamental right to bodily liberty could tell you (and if you were there, once again, we thank you!).
Oral argument lasted a little over 25 minutes. For 15 of those minutes, a panel of three judges confined themselves to asking question after question about issues unrelated to the merits of Minnie’s case. As always, we were ready for these questions. At the same time, we found them frustrating because we were there to insist once again on a hearing on the merits of Minnie’s case (i.e. on the question of whether Minnie is a legal person with the fundamental right to bodily liberty protected by the common law writ of habeas corpus). Regarding this core issue, the Court limited us to less than ten minutes.
It remains the case that the Connecticut courts have ruled against us on the merits without ever actually giving us a chance to argue the merits. We informed the Appellate Court on Wednesday that this is fundamentally unfair.
It remains the case that the Appellate Court’s prior decision in Minnie’s case is riddled with serious legal errors and totally unlike any decision in habeas corpus history. This is deeply troubling.
It remains the case that Minnie will suffer every day she is kept in servitude as a rightless being. If she is not released to a sanctuary, she will die as a prisoner in the custody of the Commerford Zoo just as Beulah and Karen have.
We have requested that the Appellate Court order a hearing en banc (i.e. with all the judges of the Court) to rehear Minnie’s case, grant us the full and fair hearing to which we are entitled, and overturn its previous decision. Beulah, Karen, and Minnie’s rightlessness has kept them in servitude for decades, with only Minnie still alive after decades of imprisonment and exploitation by the Commerford Zoo. It’s past time for the Connecticut courts to grapple with the urgent issues raised by Minnie’s elephant rights case.
Next week the NhRP will share a video of the oral argument. For more information, visit Beulah, Karen, and Minnie’s court case page.