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In re Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc.

Supreme Court of New York, First Department

June 8, 2017

In re the Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc., on behalf of Tommy, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Patrick C. Lavery, etc., et al., Respondents-Respondents. Laurence H. Tribe, Richard L. Cupp Jr. and Samuel R. Wiseman, Amici Curiae. In re the Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc., on behalf of Kiko, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Carmen Presti, etc., et al., Respondents. Justin Marceau, Samuel R. Wiseman and Laurence H. Tribe, Amici Curiae.

         Petitioner appeals from the judgment (denominated an order) of the Supreme Court, New York County (Barbara Jaffe, J.), entered January 29, 2016, declining to sign an order to show cause seeking the transfer of Kiko, a chimpanzee, to a primate sanctuary, and the judgment (denominated an order) of the same court and Justice, entered July 8, 2016, effective nunc pro tunc as of December 23, 2015, declining to sign an order to show cause seeking such relief on behalf of Tommy, a chimpanzee.

          Law Office of Elizabeth Stein, New Hyde Park (Elizabeth Stein of counsel), and Steven M. Wise, Coral Springs, FL, of the bar of the State of Massachusetts, admitted pro hac vice, of counsel, for appellant.

          Justin Marceau, Denver, CO, amicus curiae pro se.

          Samuel R. Wiseman, Tallahasse, FL, amicus curiae pro se.

          Laurence H. Tribe, Cambridge, MA, amicus curiae pro se.

          Richard L. Cupp, Jr., Malibu, CA, amicus curiae pro se.

          Dianne T. Renwick, J.P., Angela M. Mazzarelli, Sallie Manzanet-Daniels, Paul G. Feinman, Troy K. Webber, JJ.

          OPINION

          WEBBER, J.

         Petitioner seeks reversal of the motion court's judgment declining to extend habeas corpus relief to two adult male chimpanzees, Tommy and Kiko.

         Petitioner is a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation whose stated mission is "to change the common-law status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere things, ' which lack the capacity to possess any legal rights, 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" to certain fundamental rights which include entitlement to habeas relief. [1]

         The petition as to Tommy was brought in December 2015. It is alleged that Tommy, who is owned by respondents Circle L Trailer Sales, Inc. and its officers, is in a cage in a warehouse in Gloversville, New York. The petition as to Kiko was brought in January 2016. Kiko, who is owned by respondents the Primate Sanctuary, Inc. and its officers and directors, is allegedly in a cage in a cement storefront in a crowded residential area in Niagara Falls, New York.

         These are not the first petitions for habeas relief filed by petitioner on behalf of Tommy and Kiko. In December 2013, petitioner filed a petition on behalf of Kiko, in Supreme Court, Niagara County. There, the trial court declined to sign an order to show cause seeking habeas relief and the Fourth Department affirmed (Matter of Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v Presti, 124 A.D.3d 1334');">124 A.D.3d 1334 [4th Dept 2015], lv denied 26 N.Y.3d 901');">26 N.Y.3d 901 [2015]).

         Also in December 2013, petitioner brought a habeas proceeding on behalf of Tommy, in Supreme Court, Fulton County. There, the trial court declined to sign an order to show cause and the Third Department affirmed the decision (People ex rel. Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v Lavery, 124 A.D.3d 148');">124 A.D.3d 148 [3d Dept 2014], lv denied 26 N.Y.3d 902');">26 N.Y.3d 902 [2015]).

         Petitioner has also brought a habeas petition seeking the release of two chimpanzees not at issue here, Hercules and Leo, who, according to petitioner are confined for research purposes, at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In that proceeding, Supreme Court, Suffolk County, declined to sign an order to show cause and in 2014, the Second Department dismissed ...


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