This set of pleadings is from the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP). The NhRP filed the first-ever lawsuit on behalf of captive chimpanzees in New York. The suit includes a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, demanding that the chimps be released from private captivity to a sanctuary that is part of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA). In 2014, the petitioners sought review at the New York Court of Appeals.
About the Petitioner Nonhuman Rights Project:
This set of pleadings is from the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP). The NhRP filed the first-ever lawsuit on behalf of captive chimpanzees in New York in December 2013. The suit includes a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, demanding that the chimps be released from private captivity to a sanctuary that is part of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA).
The supporting affidavits offer support from scientists around the world that chimpanzees are self-aware and autonomous and should therefore be recognized as legal "persons."
About the plaintiffs, Nonhuman Rights Project:
The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is the first and only legal organization demanding that, based on scientific evidence, courts recognize the entitlement of certain nonhuman animals to such basic rights as bodily liberty and bodily integrity. Comprised of attorneys, legal experts and scientists, the Nonhuman Rights Project is focused on raising awareness and educating the public about rights for nonhuman animals. The organization uses the common law, not legislation, to gain legal rights for great apes, elephants and cetaceans (dolphins and whales).
To learn about the work of the NhRP, go to http://www.nonhumanrights.org/. For more on this lawsuit, see the NhRP's Press Release at http://www.nonhumanrightsproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/NhRP-Press-Release-Dec-2-2013.pdf
2013 Case in Fulton, County New York
On December 2013 in Fulton County, New York, petitioners' application for an order to show cause to commence a CPLR article 70 proceeding (for writs of habeas corpus) was denied. The judge denied the writs on the grounds that chimpanzees are not legal persons. (See the NhRP press release at http://www.nonhumanrightsproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/NhRP-Press-Release-12-10-13.pdf).
2014 Appeal to the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, New York
In 2014, the NhRP sought review of the trial court's decision at the New York Court of Appeals. The brief in support to the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, New York is listed in the pdf documents below as "pbusnynonhumanrights_coa_memo_law.pdf." On December 4, 2014, the Court issued an opinion. People ex rel. Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Lavery, 2014 WL 6802767 (N.Y. App. Div. Dec. 4, 2014). This was an appeal from the Supreme Court judgment denying petitioner's application for an order to show cause to commence a CPLR article 70 proceeding. Petitioners filed a habeas corpus proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 70 on the ground that Tommy was being unlawfully detained by respondents. They offered support via affidavits of experts that chimpanzee have the requisite characteristics sufficient for a court to consider them "persons" to obtain personal autonomy and freedom from unlawful detention. The Court of Appeals considered the novel question of whether a chimpanzee is a legal person entitled to the rights and protections afforded by the writ of habeas corpus. In rejecting this designation, the Court relied on the fact that chimpanzees cannot bear any legal responsibilities or social duties. As such, the Court found it "inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights . . . that have been afforded to human beings."
2015 Writ of Habeas Corpus on Behalf of Hercules and Leo
In late July of 2015, the New York County Supreme Court denied the NhRP's habeas corpus petition. Article 70 of CPLR for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, The Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. ex rel. Hercules and Leo v. Stanley, --- N.Y.S.3d ----2015 WL 4612340 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., 2015). Petitioner brought this proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 70 and under the common law for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees in the custody of respondent State University of New York at Stony Brook. It sought an order directing respondents to demonstrate the basis for detaining Hercules and Leo, and an order directing their release and transfer to a sanctuary in Florida. Since the Court found it was bound by the Third Department in People ex rel Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Lavery, which ruled that chimpanzees were not “legal persons” entitled to the rights and protections afforded by a writ of habeas corpus, it denied the habeas corpus petition and dismissed the proceeding.
The NhRP filed a Notice of Appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, First Judicial Department on August 5, 2015 concerning the denial of the writ of habeas corpus. According to the NhRP, at the end of July 2015, Stony Brook University stated that it would no longer experiment on Hercules and Leo. Discussions are in progress to transfer Hercules and Leo to an appropriate research facility. For more, see http://www.nonhumanrightsproject.org/2015/08/20/notice-of-appeal-filed-in-hercules-and-leo-case/.