NY Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe granted a motion for a writ of habeas corpus to two chimps being held for research by Stony Brook University. The writ was brought by The Nonhuman Rights Project (NHRP) which originally filed a lawsuit on behalf of the chimpanzees in 2013 with a view to having them transferred to a sanctuary in Florida. In that instance the courts -exercising common sense and rational jurisprudence – refused to issue a writ. I wrote about that case here on this blog back in December 2013. The link to that post is here. I caught some abuse for being “Close-minded” or “simple” for failing to see the beauty in this “outside-the-box-argument” It’s not creative, its foolhardy and a waste of time. I said then that if NHRP brings another such action in NY they should be fined. I stand by that position and I repeat it. Judge Jaffe should have denied the writ and sanctioned NHRP for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
However, instead she issued the writ, meaning a hearing will now be held on May 6 in which the university’s lawyers will have to explain the legal basis of the chimpanzees’ detention. Why should they have to explain their legal holding of the animals for legal research? This is a monumental waste of everyone’s time and a completely illegal order. The chimps do not have standing because they are not human. Plain and simple. Courts and the Constitution are reserved for human beings. It’s so frustrating for someone who has filed writs of habeas corpus for wrongfully incarcerated humans which get routinely and flatly denied to see any court waste its resources and efforts on a case like this.
Let’s make one thing clear – if the NHRP had evidence that the chimps were being mistreated or abused, they have a remedy. File a complaint with local law enforcement for charges to be brought under the many numerous animal protection laws which are already on the books. If they feel that all animals being held in captivity or for animal research are per se being abused or mistreated, then they have to go through Congress or their local legislature to outlaw such activity.
But going to court on the chimps behalf is a wrong and insupportable method. Its a waste of court resources as the plaintiff does not have standing to bring it. While I can take a half of a semester to just deal with legal issues surrounding “standing” let me give you the five-cent definition of it: Standing is capacity of a party to bring a suit in court. Here State laws would define standing but at the heart of these statutes is the requirement that plaintiffs have sustained or will sustain direct injury or harm and that this harm is re-dressable in court. Legal actions cannot be brought simply on the ground that an individual or group is displeased with a situation or an activity that is going on somewhere. For example, Federal courts only have constitutional authority to resolve actual disputes (“cases or controversies”). Only those with enough direct stake in an action or law have “standing” to challenge actions or activities which they oppose.
Redress about general situations that displease you or situations that you would like to see changed (like animals being used for research for example) must be changed through political or legislative means. There are other serious problems with the case that are not readily apparent from the order. What has changed since NHRP last brought this action and which was denied? Why are they not bound by the prior denial? How are they bringing this in Manhattan (where Judge Jaffee sits) when the chimps are in Suffolk County?
Look, who doesn’t love chimps? But to use the courts – and even worse to use The Great Writ of Habeas Corpus- for what appears to be simply grandstanding is shameful. This case has a snowball’s chance in Hell of surviving past May 6 but if it does it has no chance of getting past the appellate courts.
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