Nonhuman Rights Project Criticizes New York Appellate Court for Arbitrarily Denying Personhood, Rights to Captive Chimpanzees
NhRP publishes annotated version of decision that highlights First Department’s failure to understand underlying proceeding, engage with public policy arguments
The Nonhuman Rights Project
June 22, 2017, New York, N.Y.—Today the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) published a fully annotated version of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department’s June 8th, 2017 decision denying personhood and rights to captive chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko, breaking down point by point how and why it believes the decision is legally wrong.
After the NhRP legal team carefully reviewed the decision, “we unanimously concluded that the First Department had almost no idea what the NhRP alleged in our habeas petitions, what our major arguments were, or even what relief we were seeking for Tommy and Kiko,” NhRP President Steven M. Wise, an attorney who argued the case before the First Department in March, said.
The NhRP found dozens of legal errors in the decision, including the Court’s claim that the NhRP “does not challenge the legality of the chimpanzee’ detention.” The NhRP’s entire case—a petition for an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus under the common law—was a challenge to the legality of Tommy’s and Kiko’s detentions, Wise pointed out.
The First Department also appears to have failed to understood that the NhRP brought its habeas petitions solely under New York’s common law—which does not rely on precedent, but rather evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience—and not under the New York Constitution or the United States Constitution, as the Court asserted.
“The NhRP has the right to have a court decide its case based on the powerful public policy arguments that we actually made, rather than in response to straw man arguments created by the Court itself in an apparent effort to arbitrarily deny personhood and rights to these two autonomous beings,” said Wise. “Especially in today’s political climate, where fundamental human rights are under threat, US courts must engage in a mature weighing of public policy and moral principle no matter the issue, but especially if the issue is an autonomous being’s freedom.”
The NhRP will file a motion for leave to appeal to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, within the next two to three weeks.
CASE NOS. Tommy: Index. No. 162358/15 (New York County) & Kiko: Index. No. 150149/16 (New York County)
CASE NAMES: THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC., on behalf of TOMMY, Petitioner-Appellant, -against- PATRICK C. LAVERY, individually and as an officer of Circle L Trailer Sales, Inc., DIANE L. LAVERY, and CIRCLE L TRAILER SALES, INC., Respondents-Respondents. & THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC., on behalf of KIKO, Petitioner-Appellant, -against- CARMEN PRESTI, individually and as an officer and director of The Primate Sanctuary, Inc., CHRISTIE E. PRESTI, individually and as an officer and director of The Primate Sanctuary, Inc., and THE PRIMATE SANCTUARY, INC., Respondents-Respondents.
For more information on Tommy, Kiko, and the NhRP’s court cases on their behalf, visit https://www.nonhumanrights.org/litigation/
About the Nonhuman Rights Project
Founded in 1996 by attorney Steven M. Wise, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is the only civil rights organization working to achieve actual legal rights for members of species other than our own. Our mission is to change the legal status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere “things,” which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to “persons,” who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty and those other legal rights to which evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience entitle them. Our current plaintiffs are members of species who have been scientifically proven to be autonomous: currently, great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales. We are working with teams of attorneys on four continents to develop campaigns to achieve legal rights for nonhuman animals that are suited to the legal systems of these countries. Our first cases were filed in December of 2013.
About NhRP President Steven M. Wise
Steven M. Wise began his mission to gain rights for nonhuman animals in 1985. He holds a J.D. from Boston University Law School and a B.S. in chemistry from the College of William and Mary. He has practiced animal protection law for 38 years and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Professor Wise taught the first class in “Animal Rights Law” at the Harvard Law School and is currently teaching “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Lewis and Clark Law School and Vermont Law School. He is the author of four books: Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for Animals; Drawing the Line – Science and the Case for Animal Rights; Though the Heavens May Fall – The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery; and An American Trilogy – Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River. His TED Talk from the TED2015 Conference in Vancouver, Canada was released in May of 2015, and has over one million views.