Habeas corpus

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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Kevin Trudeau

* “How many years would you put a TV pitchman in jail? 3 years? 5 years? Don’t answer yet…” [Sentencing Law and Policy]

* So there’s a sex tape of Chris Christie. Except it isn’t him. They should have known Christie could never be a porn star. You can’t get far in the porn biz by saying, “This lane is closed.” [Gawker]

* Dolt Duped By Date Sues OKCupid. [NY Post]

* Patents are a terrible measure of innovation. Hold on, I defy you to besmirch the Anti-Drowning Hat. [Concurring Opinions]

* Wage theft in fast food shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the role played by the franchise model in creating labor law violations is intriguing. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* A gathering of business development tips, including shout outs to Anonymous Partner and Mark Herrmann. [Corporette]

* What better qualification to challenge for the Vegas DA’s job than to be prosecuted by that office days before the election? [Las Vegas Law Blog]

* A Baltimore lawyer aggressively used the habeas process to release mentally ill girls to serve as personal slaves to the wealthy. [Slate]

* Weil’s Business Finance & Restructuring team is putting together a March Madness bracket based on quotes from bankruptcy decisions. Let the excitement wash over you. Having not seen the bracket yet, I’m reserving judgment on what an awesome array of bankruptcy quotes would look like. [Bankruptcy Blog]

* Kevin O’Keefe, who presented on my panel at our Attorney@Blog conference, left all of us touched with his tribute to Above the Law. [Real Lawyers Have Blogs]

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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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court released opinions in two habeas cases, McQuiggin v. Perkins and Trevino v. Thaler. The holdings reek of liberal judicial activism, however well-intentioned.

In Perkins, my least favorite of Tuesday’s cases, the Court held that a showing of “actual innocence” is sufficient to circumvent the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act’s (AEDPA) statute of limitations. In effect, a narrow majority decided to judicially amend a validly enacted statute, creating an exception that the majority admits that the statute itself does not contain. On top of that, this particular case may have been a pretty defective vehicle for addressing the limitations question anyway. There’s a pesky matter, discussed at oral argument, about the procedural posture of the case, making it pretty dubious whether the Court should have even gotten to the merits here.

(Cases like Perkins make me want to appropriate my own version of Dan Savage’s “DTMFA” — shorthand for “Dump the Mother-F*cker Already.” Too often, it would be useful to just be able to write “DTMFA” for “DIG the Mother-F*cker Already” for cases that I wish that SCOTUS would dismiss as improvidently granted. But, alas, you probably have to be a syndicated sex columnist for the privilege of coining long-but-useful acronyms.)

Dark days for the fair application of AEDPA….

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Albert Haynesworth III

Albert Haynesworth III

* Does your fledgling company need a full-time general counsel? Lance Levy lays out some considerations. [In-House Blog]

* Why is Marc Randazza “the most inappropriate man in the world”? Well, how many briefs have you filed with phallus-filled footnotes? (Say that last part ten times fast.) [Popehat]

* New England Patriots defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth pleads no contest to simple assault, averting a trial for misdemeanor sexual abuse. [ESPN]

* Looking for a job in legal academia? Get to know the members of the hiring committee! [PrawfsBlawg]

* “Federal Filing of the Day: Nebraska Man Says He Left Baylor With GPS Sewn in Armpit.” [Unfair Park / Dallas Observer]

Ashley Alexandra Dupré, Eliot Spitzer's former paramour.

* Eliot Spitzer gets hit with a libel lawsuit seeking $60 million. That’s worth how many hours of Ashley Alexandra Dupré? [New York Observer]

* Congratulations to Ted Frank and his colleagues at the Center for Class Action Fairness on their latest victory — which appears to represent “the first time the Ninth Circuit has vacated approval of a class action settlement since 2003.” [Center for Class Action Fairness]

* Elsewhere in the Ninth Circuit, justice delayed turns out to be justice denied for a prisoner who died while waiting over five years for a federal district judge to rule on his habeas petition. (The magistrate judge had already recommended granting relief.) [Los Angeles Times]

[T]he never-ending stream of futile petitions suggests that habeas corpus is a wasteful nuisance. By almost any measure, the use, and abuse, of habeas by convicted state prisoners is a failure, one that could corrode one of the most revered pillars of our legal system.

– Professors Joseph Hoffmann and Nancy King, in an interesting and persuasive New York Times op-ed piece, arguing that habeas review of state criminal cases should be limited to “capital cases and cases in which the prisoner can produce persuasive new evidence of his innocence.”