Update on Appeals in NY State Chimpanzee Lawsuits

In January, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed notices of appeal in each of our three cases on behalf of chimpanzees in New York State. We filed them in three separate appellate courts according to where the original lawsuits were filed.

Tommy’s appeal was filed in the Third Judicial Department; Kiko’s appeal was filed in the Fourth Judicial Department; Hercules and Leo’s appeal has been filed in the Second Judicial Department.

Although the appeals are essentially the same in each case, each department is treating its appeal in a different way. Since these are cases of first impression, the courts appear to lack a uniform understanding of how to deal with them. One clerk told us he had never seen anything like this before.

  • In the Third Judicial Department, Tommy’s appeal is proceeding normally. We have "perfected our appeal" and filed our appellate brief. (A pdf copy is here.) This brief acts as an aid to the appellate department in arguing that the lower court erred in denying our petition for a common law writ of habeas corpus. The respondent’s reply brief is due by May 19.
  • In the Second Judicial Department (Hercules and Leo’s case), the court took the unique opportunity to dismiss our appeal in response to a standard motion to admit attorney Steven M. Wise pro hac vice "on the ground that no appeal lies as of right from an order that is not the result of a motion made on notice." We immediately filed a motion asking the court to reinstate our appeal, as New York’s habeas corpus statute expressly grants us the right to appeal and the appellate court apparently relied upon the wrong statute.
  • Finally, in the Fourth Judicial Department (Kiko’s case), the lower court is currently refusing to rule on our motion to settle the record, which is required before we can proceed with our appeal. New York law requires the lower court not only to rule on our motion, but to settle the record so that we may proceed with the appeal. We have just filed a mandamus action directly in the Fourth Department asking that court to order the lower court to settle the record so that we may proceed with our appeal.

In short, our Third Department appeal is proceeding normally, while two other courts appear to be confused by what we are doing. This is understandable, since no petition for habeas corpus has ever been filed on behalf of a nonhuman animal in New York State, or in any of the 50 states.

Since all four chimpanzees continue to languish in reprehensible situations, and animal welfare laws do not provide a means of relief for them, we are moving as fast as possible in all three appellate courts to address any procedural concerns the courts may have so they can give full consideration to the real issues of each case as soon as possible..

8 Responses to “Update on Appeals in NY State Chimpanzee Lawsuits”
  1. Alice Young says:

    Thankyou for your good work. Is Tommy still incarcerated 6 months after your initial suit? Cannot pressure be brought to bear to produce better circumstances for him whilst the lawsuit is being debated?

  2. Lupe Mccoy says:

    How can we get the word out to help…what can a person like me do??

    • Michael Mountain says:

      Thanks so much, Lupe. The legal team is currently focused on the four chimpanzees as their cases work their way through the appeals courts. They’re also deciding which state will be best for our next cases and who will be the next plaintiffs. Meanwhile, anything and everything you can do to pass the word will be much appreciated. This is new legal territory, and with many misconceptions about what it means for nonhuman animals to be recognized as having certain basic legal rights. Also, we can only file as many suits as funds permit. So all donations are most welcome. Thanks!

  3. Maree says:

    There are a lot of great organisations worldwide that get thousands upon thousands of signatures for petitions via social media. Do you think this might help?

    • Michael Mountain says:

      Petitions are helpful in seeking legislation, but not so much when you’re arguing law in front of a judge. While judges can’t help but be influenced to a certain extent by public opinion, they consider it to be part of their job not to be influenced. In our own cases, we find that intricate points of law are, if anything, more important than broad principles. Just read the transcripts here on the website!

  4. I am Admitted to practice in the Second Department and practice in Suffolk County, mostly. My practice focus is Animal Law and Foreclosure defense. I also do other areas from time to time, as long as they are underdog cases-disability discrimination in Labor and/or with Service Animals and/or PTSD/Therapy Animals, criminal cases (like speeding to the vet and cursing out a trooper for writing you up while dog is dying and all you did was go around a disabled car on a ramp like 40 other cars did), etc.

    I am also Admitted in the Eastern District and have practiced in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals-did ae disability and FMLA discrimination case, among other terrible things, versus Verizon, doing horrible things to disabled workers, older workers, pregnant workers, injured, approaching pension age, using FMLA leave-anyone “expensive” is gotten rid of any way they can, and I mean, any way. Managers are told to target certain people or else be fired themselves).

    So, Mr. Wise, you know where to look. And, I am at the forefront, gathering LOTS of animal lovers, rescuers and other advocates, and using the power of the voter and publicity to help animals.

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  1. […] The lawsuits, which were filed in December 2013, are based on scientific evidence proving that chimpanzees are self-aware and autonomous, and that these plaintiffs should be released to sanctuaries. The cases are currently making their way through the appellate courts. (Details on the current progress of each case can be found on the NhRP website here.) […]

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