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Preparing for a Historic Hearing in the Fight to #FreeHappy

By Kevin Schneider

On July 6th, the NhRP will file our brief with New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, laying out our arguments in support of Happy’s right to liberty and release from the Bronx Zoo to a sanctuary.

The NhRP legal team has been working on the brief nonstop since May when the New York Court of Appeals granted the NhRP’s motion for permission to appeal in our legal fight to free Happy. This marks the first time in history that the highest court of any jurisdiction will consider whether the right to liberty protected by common law habeas corpus may extend to a nonhuman being. This is a major milestone in the worldwide struggle for the rights of nonhuman animals.

In preparation for Happy’s historic hearing, NhRP attorneys Steven Wise, Elizabeth Stein, and Spencer Lo spent hundreds of hours each on the first draft of the brief. Following that, NhRP attorney Jake Davis and I joined in to begin giving our comments.

The Court rules give us 14,000 words to use in the brief, and we have to maximize every single one. So beginning in June, we held near-daily Zoom meetings (some as long as five hours) to read through the evolving draft line by line. These calls featured tons of good-spirited but sharp conversations about the exact wording to use. In these calls, everything goes under a microscope: every citation, every paragraph break, every bit of punctuation and emphasis.

At the end of this long and laborious process, it was all worth it. The whole NhRP legal team thinks that this is the best brief we have ever done in almost a decade of litigation in New York. And we strongly believe we have put forth the best possible legal argument for Happy’s freedom. We are already sharing the brief with outside experts who may agree to submit amicus curiae briefs. We’ve seen in the past, especially in Judge Fahey’s concurrence in Tommy, these amicus briefs can matter a lot, and can help shape the law in a positive direction towards rights for nonhuman animals. We are excited to share the brief with you all next week on the day of filing, so please stay tuned!

We thank you for your ongoing support that has gotten us to this momentous juncture.

To learn more about Happy and her court case, click here. To join the over one million people who’ve signed her petition, click here. To make a donation to help ensure the legal fight for elephant rights is as strong as it can be, now and until all elephants can live freely, click here.

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