Habeas Corpus, “Happy the Elephant” and Granting Rights & Legal Personhood
Under the common law, all nonhuman animals have long been regarded as “things” incapable of possessing even a single legal right. In May 2021, the New York Court of Appeals agreed to accept the habeas corpus appeal of Happy, an elephant confined to the Bronx Zoo for over 40 years, marking the first time the high court of any jurisdiction will consider whether the common law of habeas corpus extends the right to bodily liberty beyond human beings. The Court is being asked to recognize Happy as a “person” under Article 70 of the CPLR (the habeas corpus procedural statute) and order her freed to an elephant sanctuary. The presenters, Kevin Schneider and Elizabeth Stein, are attorneys representing Happy for the Nonhuman Rights Project, which in December 2013 filed the world’s first nonhuman animal habeas corpus petition under the common law in New York State Supreme Court, Fulton County, on behalf of a chimpanzee named Tommy. The speakers will discuss the current legal situation for nonhuman animals in New York, the history and present use of the writ of habeas corpus, and responses of state trial and appellate court judges to the question of whether a nonhuman animal may possess the right to bodily liberty protected by New York’s common law of habeas corpus. The speakers will also briefly review judicial opinions from outside the United States granting rights and legal personhood to nonhuman animals, including specifically the right to bodily liberty protected by habeas corpus.
Kevin Schneider, Esq., Nonhuman Rights Project
Elizabeth Stein, Esq., Nonhuman Rights Project
- September 29, 2021
- Online On-Demand