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Two Chimpanzees Given the Right for Writ of Habeas Corpus as Legal Persons
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Nonhuman Rights Project frees chimpanzees

Summary: Two chimpanzees used at a university for biomedical tests have been given the status of legal persons for a cause and writ of habeas corpus case.

After being dismissed in two previous courts, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) was awarded by a judge the right to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two chimpanzees being used at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York. The chimpanzees are kept for biomedical experiments.



In New York, in order to qualify for habeas corpus, one must be a legal person. Therefore, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe ruled that the chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, are legal persons.

Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe

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The NhRP originally filed in the Supreme Court of Suffolk County back in December 2013. The Justice of that Court and the Appellate Division dismissed the case. The NhRP then took the case to Manhattan, believing that the courts had erred.

The NhRP wants Hercules and Leo to be taken to Ft. Pierce, Florida to be cared for at the Save the Chimps sanctuary. The sanctuary has thirteen artificial islands on a large lake that are designed to mirror an environment of their natural home in Africa.

The next step in the common law writ of habeas corpus process requires Stony Brook University to provide a sufficient reason for confining the chimpanzees. The court date is set for May 6, 2015 but can be moved to later in May.

There are currently two related cases for two other chimpanzees. The decisions for both cases are pending.

Amendment: Judge Jaffe amended the order and removed the writ of habeas corpus wordage from the document on the same evening. The case will continue between the NhRP and Stony Brook University to determine the freedom of the two chimpanzees but the chimpanzees are no longer considered “legal persons”. Judge Jaffe claims she never meant to give the chimpanzees legal personhood.




NhRP photo:

Jaffe photo:


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