Legal battle for personhood will continue on appeal
On July 30, 2015, Justice Barbara Jaffe denied a petition to grant a writ of habeas corpus to free two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, from their confinement in a laboratory at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In her 33-page decision, Justice Jaffe thoroughly examined all of the issues, but ultimately ruled against the petition, explaining that courts “are slow to embrace change, and occasionally seem reluctant to engage in broader, more inclusive interpretations of the law, if only to the modest extent to affording them greater consideration.”
Justice Jaffe relied in part on her need to follow previous determinations from a state appellate court in the lawsuit to free Tommy, which is now before the New York Court of Appeals on a request for review.
The decision dismissed other procedural objections from defendants, and recognized that the plaintiffs, the Nonhuman Rights Project, had standing to bring this suit because there is no restriction on who can bring a petition forhabeas corpus on behalf of a person being unlawfully restrained.
She concluded her decision by saying, “Efforts to extend legal rights to chimpanzees are thus understandable; some day they may even succeed.”
The Nonhuman Rights Project is already planning to appeal this decision to the New York Supreme Court, which is not bound by decisions of lower courts within the New York appellate system.