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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Rick Cupp authors amicus brief in Nonhuman Rights Project v. Lavery

April 26, 2017 | By Kylie Larkin -- Professor Richard L. Cupp has authored an amicus curiae brief, "Litigating Nonhuman Animal Legal Personhood," (SSRN) in the New York Court of Appeals case, The People ex rel. Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Lavery.  Professor Cupp's brief was featured in the Legal Theory Blog (lsolum.typepad.com).

Abstract of Litigating Nonhuman Legal Animal Personhood:

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 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.