NhRP Seeks to Appeal Lower Court Ruling on Behalf of Chimpanzee Clients Tommy and Kiko to New York's Highest Court
"Personhood determines who counts, who lives, who dies, who is enslaved, and who is free.”
For Immediate Release:
Nov. 17, 2017
New York, N.Y.—As part of the Nonhuman Rights Project’s continuing efforts to secure legal personhood for our captive chimpanzee clients Tommy and Kiko, we have filed a motion with the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department for permission to appeal to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
The First Department issued a decision on June 8 that upheld the refusal of the lower court to issue orders to show cause on the ground that the NhRP was not permitted to seek a second writ of habeas corpus after a judge refused to issue a first writ. In addition, the court said that only humans could be legal persons because they are human. Both of these rulings are the subject of the NhRP’s proposed appeal.
“We look forward to Tommy and Kiko having their day in court before New York’s highest court,” said Steven Wise, Founder and President of Nonhuman Rights Project. “And we remain eager to have their right to bodily liberty recognized by the Courts and respected and hope they will soon go to a sanctuary where they will be able to live their lives in freedom.”
The specific grounds for the NhRP’s motion are that:
- The First Department ignored and/or misunderstood the novel and complex legal issues raised by these cases.
- The First Department’s decision conflicts with rulings of the Court of Appeals, the First Department itself, and other judicial departments of the Appellate Division on such fundamental legal issues as the requirements for legal personhood and the availability of the writ of habeas corpus for both humans and chimpanzees.
- The decision contains numerous legal errors and erroneous factual assumptions that require review and correction by the Court of Appeals.
Among the novel and complex legal issues the First Department failed to consider and which—as a matter of public policy, not biology—the Court of Appeals should consider are:
- Who is a “person” within the meaning of New York’s common law of habeas corpus? This, the NhRP maintains in its Memorandum of Law, “is the most important individual issue that can come before a New York court. Personhood determines who counts, who lives, who dies, who is enslaved, and who is free.”
- Whether the appellate court can deny an imprisoned autonomous being—such as a chimpanzee—the right to a common law writ of habeas corpus solely because he or she is not human.
- Whether it is relevant to the New York common law habeas corpus statute that the NhRP is asking for the chimpanzees’ release to a sanctuary and not their release into a wild they have never known.
If the First Department refuses to grant the NhRP’s Motion for Leave to Appeal to the Court of Appeals, the NhRP will place its motion for leave to appeal directly before the Court of Appeals. Should this be required, more than a dozen prominent philosophers will seek to file an amici curiae brief in support of the NhRP’s appeal to the Court of Appeals. The brief will reinforce the NhRP’s assertion that the First Department’s denial of personhood and rights to Tommy and Kiko was arbitrary.
As the only civil rights organization devoted to securing rights for nonhuman animals, the NhRP has already achieved significant milestones in the US court system with their chimpanzee clients. Among those milestones was a New York court’s 2015 decision to grant a hearing to determine the lawfulness of chimpanzees Hercules’ and Leo’s detainment, a first in the US court system.
Click here to download a PDF of the NhRP’s Memorandum of Law in support of our motion for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals. Click here to view Tommy’s court case timeline and here for Kiko’s court case timeline.
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About the Nonhuman Rights Project
Founded in 1996 by attorney Steven M. Wise, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) works to secure legally recognized fundamental rights for nonhuman animals through litigation, advocacy, and education. 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. We filed our first cases 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 four decades and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Professor Wise taught the first class in “Animal Rights Law” at the Harvard Law School and has taught “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Stanford Law School, as well as the University of Miami, St. Thomas, and John Marshall Law Schools, 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.