Habeas corpus is limited to human beings

Matter of Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v Breheny, 2020 NY Slip Op 07675 [1st Dept. 2020]

Order, Supreme Court, Bronx County (Alison Y. Tuitt, J.), entered on or about February 19, 2020, which granted respondents’ motion to dismiss the petition for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Happy, an elephant, unanimously affirmed, without costs. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment dismissing the proceeding brought pursuant to CPLR article 70.

The common-law writ of habeas corpus does not lie on behalf of Happy, the elephant at issue in this proceeding (see Matter of Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v Lavery, 152 AD3d 73 [1st Dept 2017], lv denied 31 NY3d 1054 [2018]). We decline to overrule any of our alternative holdings in Lavery, which petitioner erroneously refers to as “dicta.” Under Lavery, the writ of habeas corpus is limited to human beings (see id. at 76-78). A judicial determination that species other than homo sapiens are “persons” for some juridical purposes, and therefore have certain rights, would lead to a labyrinthof questions that common-law processes are ill-equipped to answer. As we said in Lavery, the decisions of whether and how to integrate other species into legal constructs designed for humans is a matter “better suited to the legislative process.” (id at 80).

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