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Statement on Amicus Brief Filed in Ruth and Emily Habeas Case

By Nonhuman Rights

Below is a statement from the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) regarding the amicus curiae brief we filed in the habeas corpus case brought by Joyce Rowley on behalf of elephants Ruth and Emily in Massachusetts:

We at the Nonhuman Rights Project have always greatly respected the compassion that motivates Joyce Rowley’s advocacy on behalf of Ruth and Emily, two elephants who deserve to be released from the Buttonwood Zoo to a sanctuary.

We first learned of Ms. Rowley’s habeas corpus case on Ruth and Emily’s behalf at the beginning of July when she announced via her newsletter that she had filed her appellate brief after losing at the trial court level. After we reviewed her brief and other filings, we were troubled to see both that Ms. Rowley had failed to place a single fact into evidence before the trial court and that her appellate brief lacked the persuasive legal argument necessary to give her any chance of winning on appeal.

We therefore determined that Ms. Rowley’s appeal had the potential to inflict great harm to any future efforts in the courts either to free Ruth and Emily or to secure personhood and rights for other nonhuman animals in Massachusetts.

We wrote in our amicus brief that Ms. Rowley, who is neither a lawyer nor an elephant expert, unfortunately was not qualified to litigate a novel and legally complex habeas corpus case that demands, for the first time in Massachusetts, that judges recognize an elephant as a legal person with the right to bodily liberty protected by habeas corpus.

Before we considered filing an amicus brief, we reached out by email and phone to Ms. Rowley, with whom we had been in friendly communication since 2018, to discuss the possibility of her withdrawing her appeal and to offer to help her explore other legal options to free Ruth and Emily, including filing a new habeas corpus petition. However, she abruptly hung up on us before we could fully explain our concerns and later communicated that she had deleted our follow-up email (in which we detailed our offer to help, since we were not able to do so on the call) without reading it, stating that we were not to communicate with her again.

Under those circumstances, we decided we had no choice but to seek to file an amicus brief with its goals being 1) to ask the Court that, if it intended to affirm the lower court’s dismissal of her claim, it should limit its decision to Ms. Rowley’s specific petition regarding Ruth and Emily and not address the potential legal rights of elephants or of nonhuman animals in general and 2) to demonstrate to the Court what a proper habeas corpus case on behalf of an elephant might look like, using Happy’s case and appeal in New York as a model.

We hope Ruth and Emily can be freed to a sanctuary. Unfortunately, Ms. Rowley’s petition will not accomplish this goal and could be catastrophic to the cause of nonhuman animal rights in Massachusetts. This outcome is what we have sought to avoid by filing our amicus brief.

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