When New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe issued a writ of habeas corpus regarding chimpanzees Hercules and Leo on Monday, the animal rights group that filed the lawsuit cheered, arguing that Jaffe had "implicitly determined that Hercules and Leo are 'persons.'" A habeas corpus ("you may have the body" in Latin) order typically requires a detainee to be present in court to determine the legal justification for detention.
That joy was tempered a bit when Jaffe changed the language of her ruling on Tuesday, in response to widespread misunderstanding, striking the habeas corpus language and emphasizing that she is merely compelling the chimps' caretakers, State University of New York at Stony Brook, to appear in court May 6 to provide a legal rationale for keeping the animals locked up.
"All this does is allow the parties to argue their case in court," said court spokesman David Bookstaver. Still, the animal rights group, Nonhuman Rights Project, cheered Jaffe's decision to give Leo and Hercules their day in court. The group sued in 2013, asking that the two apes be sent to an animal refuge in Florida. On May 6, Stony Brook lawyers will have to explain why they shouldn't be. Legal scholars are split on the movement to grant animals rights of "legal persons." Reuters has more information in the video below.
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