Litigating Nonhuman Animal Legal Personhood: Amicus Curiae Brief in Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Lavery

24 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2017 Last revised: 8 Jul 2017

Richard L. Cupp Jr.

Pepperdine University School of Law

Date Written: April 23, 2017

Abstract

The debate over nonhuman animal legal personhood, until recently only an academic controversy, has moved into the courts. Since late 2013 an animal rights organization named the Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. (“NhRP”) has initiated several lawsuits in New York’s state courts arguing that as particularly intelligent animals, chimpanzees should be viewed as legal persons. The lawsuits seek to utilize common law writs of habeas corpus to require that the chimpanzees named in the lawsuits be moved from their present environments to sanctuaries that the lawsuits assert would provide greater freedom for the animals. The lawsuits do not assert that the conditions in which the chimpanzees are being kept violate animal welfare laws. Rather, they argue they argue that courts should declare chimpanzees to be legal persons with interests that require moving them to a sanctuary that the NhRP argues is a less restrictive environment. None of the NhRP’s lawsuits have been successful at any level thus far. In late 2015 the NhRP filed a second petition for habeas corpus regarding one of the chimpanzees, arguing that a published appellate decision from another department wrongfully rejected their first habeas corpus petition seeking legal personhood for the chimpanzee. The second petition was also denied by the trial court, and oral arguments on the NhRP’s appeal were heard in March, 2017. In its appeal the NhRP stated that the previous appellate decision they challenged “relied almost exclusively” on two law review articles written by the author. The amicus curiae brief below argues against the NhRP’s appeal, asserting that courts and legislatures should focus on enhancing human responsibility for animals’ welfare rather than adopting the radical and dangerous concept of animal legal personhood.

Keywords: human rights, animal rights, animal law, habeas corpus, animal welfare, personhood, legal personhood, jurisprudence

Suggested Citation

Cupp, Richard L., Litigating Nonhuman Animal Legal Personhood: Amicus Curiae Brief in Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Lavery (April 23, 2017). Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017/10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2957205

R.L. Cupp Jr. (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States
(310) 506-4658 (Phone)

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