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Statement Re: NY Court of Appeals Decision to Deny Motion for Leave to Appeal in Tommy’s and Kiko’s Cases

By Steven Wise

Statement by Nonhuman Rights Project President Steven M. Wise regarding the New York State Court of Appeals decision to deny its motion for leave to appeal in both Tommy’s and Kiko’s cases

“While disappointed in the Court of Appeals’ decision today denying our motions for leave to further appeal) in both Tommy’s and Kiko’s cases we are in no way discouraged.

“We are still in the early stages of a long-term multi-state strategic litigation campaign to change the legal status of appropriate nonhuman animals like Tommy and Kiko from mere “things” to “persons” possessing such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty. We already are discussing whether, where, and how to re-file Tommy’s and Kiko’s cases in the appropriate courts.

“The 3rd Department Tommy court ruled against us because it claimed – without any
evidence being presented – that chimpanzees could not shoulder duties and responsibilities, despite the fact that a vast number of humans cannot shoulder duties and responsibilities either. This was the first time that any appellate court had ever been confronted with our arguments.

“We are not alone in our view. The pre-eminent constitutional law professor in the United States, Harvard Law Professor Laurence H. Tribe, filed a “letter brief” with the Court of Appeals in which he explained that the Tommy case had been wrongly decided and stated that, if the Court of Appeals took the appeal, he intended to file a full-scale brief in support of our position. The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, which has the most experience of any person or organization in the United States with habeas corpus cases, also filed a “letter brief” in our support, as did a University of Denver law professor, on behalf of a number of habeas corpus legal scholars, all of whom disagreed with the Tommy court. And support continues to build.

“The 4th Department Kiko court twice assumed, without deciding, that Kiko could be a “person,” then decided the case on the ground that our use of habeas corpus was improper because we were not demanding absolute release of Kiko, but his transfer to a sanctuary.

“No court in New York has ever held this. Indeed in the comprehensive 33 page opinion that New York County Supreme Court Justice Jaffee handed down five weeks ago in the Hercules and Leo case, she expressly refused to follow the Kiko decision on the ground that the appellate court with jurisdiction over her court, the 1st Department, has ruled the other way.”

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