Judge Recognizes Two Chimpanzees as Legal Persons, Grants them Writ of Habeas Corpus

The Nonhuman Rights Project issued the following press release this afternoon:

BREAKING NEWS

First Time in World History Judge Recognizes Two Chimpanzees as Legal Persons, Grants them Writ of Habeas Corpus

April 20, 2015 – New York, NY – For the first time in history a judge has granted an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a nonhuman animal. This afternoon, in a case brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe issued an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, who are being used for biomedical experimentation at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York.

Under the law of New York State, only a “legal person” may have an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus issued in his or her behalf. The Court has therefore implicitly determined that Hercules and Leo are “persons.”

A common law writ of habeas corpus involves a two-step process. First, a Justice issues the order to show cause and a writ of habeas corpus, which the Nonhuman Rights Project then serves on Stony Brook University. The writ requires Stony Brook University, represented by the Attorney General of New York, to appear in court and provide a legally sufficient reason for detaining Hercules and Leo. The Court has scheduled that hearing for May 6, 2015, though it may be moved to a later day in May.  

The NhRP has asked that Hercules and Leo be freed and released into the care of Save the Chimps, a sanctuary in Ft. Pierce, Florida. There they will spend the rest of their lives primarily on one of 13 artificial islands on a large lake in Ft. Pierce, Florida along with 250 other chimpanzees in an environment as close to that of their natural home in Africa as can be found in North America. In the second step of the process, the Court will determine whether the reason given by Stony Brook is legally sufficient, or whether Hercules and Leo should be freed.

Hercules and Leo’s suit was originally filed in the Supreme Court of Suffolk County in December, 2013. A Justice of that Court refused to issue the requested writ of habeas corpus, and the Appellate Division, Second Department, dismissed the appeal on the ground that the NhRP lacked the right to appeal.

In the belief that both courts erred, the Nonhuman Rights Project respectfully re-filed its petition for an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Hercules and Leo in March, 2015, in the New York County Supreme Court in Manhattan, which led to today’s decision.

In two similar cases on behalf of two other chimpanzees, Tommy and Kiko, the Nonhuman Rights Project has filed Motions for Leave to Appeal to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. Decisions in both cases are pending.

Clarification Posted 4/21/2015, 1 pm Eastern

Within the last few hours, the Nonhuman Rights Project has become aware of certain reporting about yesterday’s “Order to Show Cause and Writ of Habeas Corpus” issued by Judge Barbara Jaffe of the New York County Supreme Court that we think exaggerates or reads too much into the Judge’s Order. We would like to make clear what we believe the Order does, and does not, necessarily mean and at the same time clarify a press release that we issued yesterday afternoon.

The Order does not necessarily mean that the Court has declared that the two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, are legal persons for the purpose of an Article 70 common law writ of habeas corpus proceeding. In New York, an Article 70 proceeding has two steps. The first is that the Court may issue an Order to Show Cause (which is the equivalent of a writ of habeas corpus, except the petitioner does not request that the body of the alleged detainee be immediately brought before the Court). The issuance of the Order means, we believe, that the Court believes at minimum that the chimpanzees could possibly be legal persons for the purpose of Article 70, without deciding that they are, and that the issue will be determined only after it is fully briefed and argued at the adversarial hearing that is step 2 of the Article 70 proceeding.

UPDATE:
The hearing is now scheduled for Wednesday, May 27 at 10:30 am at the New York County Supreme Court, 80 Centre St., New York, NY 10013. The hearing is open to the public.

Comments
150 Responses to “Judge Recognizes Two Chimpanzees as Legal Persons, Grants them Writ of Habeas Corpus”
  1. Ava says:

    THANK YOU!!! For your fortitude and compassion for these animals! Wow it’s great to finally get some good news about a judge/law doing the RIGHT thing!! Let’s keep it up! All together we make change happen!

    • gail cavanagh says:

      re: Hercules and Leo
      I was so happy to hear that the case has been resolved.I just became aware of the situation. I was thinking about about Albert Schweitzer and his Reverence for Life Ethic. “Standing, as all living beings are, before this dilemma of the wil to live, man is constantly forced to preserve his own life and life in general only at the cost of other life. If he has been touched by the ethic of Reverence For Life, he injures and destroys life only under a necessity he cannot avoid, and never from thoughtlessness. Devoted as I was from boyhood to the cause of protecting animal life, it is a special joy to me that the universal ethic of Reverence For Life shows such sympathy with animals – so often represented as sentimentality – to be an obligation no thinking person can escape.”(Albert Schweitzer) Thanks to all who have made this happen. Perhaps a new beginning for a new century

    • Galena Debney says:

      I’m with you 100% Ava. The world is finally progressing in the rights of animals. Good news at last.

  2. Michela says:

    Is there a transcript available from this trial?

    • Lauren Choplin says:

      Michela: the hearing hasn’t happened yet (it’s on May 27th), but you can read and download PDFs of hearings from our other lawsuits as well as all court filings in the Court Cases section of our website. Thanks!

  3. Why has it taken so long to release these two Chimpanzees from Stony Brook? If a judge has given them the right of “personhood” they should be free right now. They should be appointed a guardian & transported to the Florida sanctuary immediately. I certainly do not understand all the subtleties & nuances of the law – it’s not my area of expertise. And the law sometimes is cumbersome and slow. This is due in no part to the attorneys involved – it’s the way the law is written.

    Thank you all so much who have worked so diligently on this matter.

  4. Shirley Bell says:

    I live in Durban and am the editor of the Durban & Coast SPCA magazine, THE ANIMAL ANGLE, and animals, including wildlife, are my passion. Vervet monkeys visit my garden every day. I will be writing an item on your work for our December issue. I also write a monthly column for the SPCA website: http://www.spcadbn.org.za. There are links to back copies of the column on the website. Separately from my work with the SPCA, I will shortly be starting a blog that will list animal organisations anywhere that recognise the interconnectedness of all life and will include brief details about each. . (My first book was OLD MAN COELACANTH, published by Voortrekkerpers way back in 1969 when I was a very young editor of FIELD AND TIDE in my early twenties. My mentor was Prof JLB Smith himself. I left the magazine after four years to return to university in 1969 for five years of full-time study. I have long been involved in animal life and for decades have followed explorations into animal consciousness and written quite a bit about it for the general public. Your work is making a hugely vital contribution towards making people aware of the complexity of animal consciousness.
    Shirley Bell

  5. CoCo says:

    Jesica Te felicito por tu trajabo con esos hermosos perritos. Te admiro muchisimo, y no solo creo que sos una actriz increible sino que se nota que sos una persona fantastica. Ojala algun dia puedas pasarte por Argentina y tenga el honor de conocerte personalmente. Hace dias vi la pelicula Amanecer,me encanto tu actuacion y gracias a vos amo el personaje de Rosalie. Te juro que segui la saga solo por que sabia que trabajabas en ella.Te deceo toda la suerte del mundo en todos los proyectos que emprendas y gracias por compartir parte de tu vida con nosotros. Aun sin conocerte personalmente, te aprecio y admiro muchisimo. Besitos desde Argentina ..

  6. Rowena says:

    I pray this is beginning to many more chimpanzees across the world having more understand from people and better care that they deserve.

  7. Angelina Martens says:

    Best wishes to All. Just have seen a documentatie
    On Dutch television. We. Patrick and Angelina wereld very impressed with this Organisation. We Hope that All goes Well in Court
    Senserely
    Angelina from the Netherlands

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