Chimpanzees

In December, Steven Wise, founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, filed writs of habeas corpus on behalf of four chimpanzees he believed were wrongfully detained. Some scoffed at the idea — quips like “the law is going to the apes” or something about “appeals” and “banana peels” — but the facts were pretty bleak. One of the chimps, Tommy, is 26 years old and allegedly reduced to a life in “solitary confinement in a small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed” in upstate New York. Can you imagine more horrific conditions than upstate New York?

Seriously though, Tommy’s life sounds awful and a New York judge agreed. While admitting that he was unable to grant the order since, you know, the law doesn’t talk about chimps, Judge Joseph Sise conceded that Wise made a compelling argument. Yesterday, a five-member appellate panel heard Tommy’s case and depending on how they rule, they might just make a monkey out of Judge Sise. Is New York on the brink of a revolution in animal law?

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It just wouldn’t be prudent to let him back into society. (Image via Sunday Mercury)

* Remember the chimps seeking habeas? Well, bad news: they’re staying in custody, per an order from Judge Ralph A. Boniello III. Now their freedom is up to the Army of the 12 Monkeys. [Wired]

* Elizabeth Coker has announced she is seeking the office of Polk County Criminal District Attorney. While some may disagree, I think this is a great idea. She’s been directing the litigation strategies of prosecutors for some time now. So why does a judge drummed out of office for texting prosecutors think she should go back into public service? Prayer. Of course. [Polk County Today]

* Judge Steven Rhodes is overseeing the Detroit bankruptcy. He’s not taking any guff off anyone, including an investment banker who pledged that it was “very important” that his firm help the city, prompting Judge Rhodes to point out, “What’s very important to you is to make money.” He’s also a badass rhythm guitarist. [Associated Press via Yahoo!]

* A Colorado judge has declared that a discriminating baker can no longer prevent gay couples from buying wedding cakes. It’s unclear if he’s ordering the baker to stock those stupid plastic cake toppers in groom & groom format. [Consumerist]

* Proofreading law school exams. This article is aimed at law students, but maybe it should be directed toward a certain St. John’s professor… [Law School Toolbox]

* George Zimmerman’s girlfriend wants him out of jail. She originally told police that Zimmerman pointed a shotgun in her face. That’s Princess Bride-level true love s**t right there. [Slate]

* Michigan State celebrated putting Ohio State in its place by setting “at least 57 fires.” Can someone holding a sign encouraging people to “Burn the Couch” be held liable? A better question is whether West Virginia can sue Michigan State for stealing their hillbilly intellectual property? [PrawfsBlawg]

* Sadly, Akerman partner Richard Sharpstein was found dead in his home today. He was 63. [Daily Business Review]

* A few tipsters sent this one in. They claim it’s a law student acting like a jerk trying to buy cigarettes in a drug store. The sound is spotty, so none of us could figure out exactly what was going on, but it’s worth it for the guy who yells: “Yeah, tell him! Tell him when you were born!” Video after the jump….

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Do chimpanzees deserve legal personhood? A “first of its kind” lawsuit will ask a court to answer that question. Steven Wise, founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, has filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of four chimpanzees.

I will now pause while James Franco auditions for the role of Steven Wise.

I’m not sure what rights chimpanzees (or pets) deserve in our human society — but “zero” seems to me to be the wrong and certainly unenlightened answer. Wise argues that the chimps are being held as prisoners against their will. I don’t think anybody can seriously disagree with that assessment.

But if chimps have a “will,” do they also have rights that we are bound to respect?

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