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“Thank you for arguing with me”: Notes from a recent legal team meeting

By Amy Kapoor

It was a beautiful, sunny, 80-degree Saturday in Florida in February. Instead of spending it outside, NhRP President Steven M. Wise, Executive Director Kevin Schneider, Staff Attorney Elizabeth Stein, Staff Attorney Spencer Lo, Staff Attorney Monica Miller, pro bono attorney Chris Hollinger, and I were cheerfully sitting around a kitchen table strewn with laptops, coffee, and half-eaten snacks while scrutinizing a 60-page legal brief line by line.

While, for some, this sort of day might seem like a waking nightmare, for the NhRP, it’s a crucial part of the legal work we are honored to do as the only organization in the US dedicated solely to securing rights for nonhuman animals.

Clockwise from left: NhRP Executive Director Kevin Schneider, Staff Attorney Spencer Lo, Staff Attorney Elizabeth Stein, Staff Attorney Monica Miller, NhRP President Steven M. Wise, and NhRP Staff Attorney Amy Kapoor.

From February 28th to March 1st, the NhRP’s “legal brain trust” gathered at Steve’s house to work on our upcoming appeal of Justice Tuitt’s decision in Happy’s case and finalize our litigation strategy in California, where we’ll file a new nonhuman animal rights lawsuit later this year.

Members of our legal team live all over country, and we all work remotely. Although we’re in constant communication, sitting together face to face at least twice a year is invaluable to making sure we’re thinking through all aspects of our habeas corpus petitions. Our individual passions for our collective mission can sometimes make these meetings sound like a family feud, but we are all the better for the intense but always respectful debates we have. As Steve told Monica after a lively conversation about a key aspect of our litigation: “Thank you for arguing with me.”

Spencer and Elizabeth (also known as Liddy) weigh in on a debate. We’ve blurred the document on Liddy’s laptop screen because it contains information about our potential nonhuman animal clients in California, which we keep confidential until the day we file suit.

During our meeting, we debated how best to use the powerful language from Justice Tuitt’s decision to bring us one step closer to securing liberty and justice for Happy and other autonomous nonhuman animals. We also spent significant time discussing our legal strategy in California—thoroughly deliberating the common law of habeas corpus and principles of justice in the state, such as liberty and equality, and considering potential nonhuman animal clients.

On our breaks, we hung out in the sunshine with Steve’s canine companion Yogi:

And made a little time for Snapchat:

Kevin and Monica get in touch with their inner bears.

Each night, we’d share some downtime over dinner. Joining us were artists Sam Machado and Cynthia Sousa, who are publishing a graphic novel about the NhRP’s work with Island Press this fall:

Sam and Cynthia.

We at the NhRP humbly recognize that with the immense privilege of doing groundbreaking work to secure rights for nonhuman animals comes the great responsibility to do it right. These legal team meetings help ensure we fulfill this mission.

To learn more about the NhRP’s litigation, visit this page.

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