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Kohn Files Amicus Brief Opposing Writ of Habeas Corpus for Stony Brook Chimps


I filed an amicus curiae brief in New York court in Manhattan last week opposing a petition by the NonHuman Rights Project seeking the release of two chimpanzees they say are being "unlawfully detained" by the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The NhRP is not seeking the release of the chimps by means of existing New York law governing the mistreatment of animals (see, e.g., Agricultural & Markets Law § 373, regarding confinement in “crowded or unhealthy conditions”), but on the novel basis that the chimps are “persons” under the law entitling them to deliverance via habeas corpus.

The amicus brief, filed on behalf of the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas, is much like its predecessors (see here and here). It takes the position that nonhuman animals cannot be "persons" under the law, because they cannot assume any legal responsibilities for breaking human laws. In a nutshell, non-human animals, having only an instinct to survive rather than a free will to choose otherwise, can neither understand nor carry out moral or legal obligations, such as respecting the life, liberty, and property of others.

Responding on behalf of Stony Brook will be New York State's Attorney General, whose papers are due on May 22. A hearing was expected on May 27, but earlier this week, the State filed a notice stating it will seek a change of venue from Manhattan to Suffolk County, where the chimps are being held.

In papers filed on May 13, the Attorney General affirmed that it has no opposition to the Center's amicus brief.


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