Nonhuman Rights Project Criticizes New York Appellate Court for Arbitrarily Denying Personhood, Rights to Captive Chimpanzees

NhRP publishes annotated version of decision that highlights First Department’s failure to understand underlying proceeding, engage with public policy arguments

Coral Springs, UNITED STATES

New York, NY, June 22, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) published a fully annotated version of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department’s June 8th, 2017 decision denying personhood and rights to captive chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko, breaking down point by point how and why it believes the decision is legally wrong.

After the NhRP legal team carefully reviewed the decision, “we unanimously concluded that the First Department had almost no idea what the NhRP alleged in our habeas petitions, what our major arguments were, or even what relief we were seeking for Tommy and Kiko,” NhRP President Steven M. Wise, an attorney who argued the case before the First Department in March, said.

Encouraging public debate about the decision, the NhRP made its annotations available as an interactive multimedia web page via Genius Annotations and as a downloadable PDF.

The NhRP found dozens of legal errors in the decision, including the Court’s claim that the NhRP “does not challenge the legality of the chimpanzee’ detention.” The NhRP’s entire case—a petition for an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus under the common law—was a challenge to the legality of Tommy’s and Kiko’s detentions, Wise pointed out.

The First Department also appears to have failed to understood that the NhRP brought its habeas petitions solely under New York’s common law—which does not rely on precedent, but rather evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience—and not under the New York Constitution or the United States Constitution, as the Court asserted.

 “The NhRP has the right to have a court decide its case based on the powerful public policy arguments that we actually made, rather than in response to straw man arguments created by the Court itself in an apparent effort to arbitrarily deny personhood and rights to these two autonomous beings,” said Wise. “Especially in today’s political climate, where fundamental human rights are under threat, US courts must engage in a mature weighing of public policy and moral principle no matter the issue, but especially if the issue is an autonomous being's freedom.”

The NhRP will file a motion for leave to appeal to New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, within the next two to three weeks.

CASE NOS. Tommy: Index. No. 162358/15 (New York County) & Kiko: Index. No. 150149/16 (New York County)

CASE NAMES: THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC., on behalf of TOMMY, Petitioner-Appellant, -against- PATRICK C. LAVERY, individually and as an officer of Circle L Trailer Sales, Inc., DIANE L. LAVERY, and CIRCLE L TRAILER SALES, INC., Respondents-Respondents. & THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC., on behalf of KIKO, Petitioner-Appellant, -against- CARMEN PRESTI, individually and as an officer and director of The Primate Sanctuary, Inc., CHRISTIE E. PRESTI, individually and as an officer and director of The Primate Sanctuary, Inc., and THE PRIMATE SANCTUARY, INC., Respondents-Respondents.

For more information on Tommy, Kiko, and the NhRP’s court cases on their behalf, visit


A photo accompanying this announcement is available at