New York Judge says chimp can file habeas case. Do I get a staffing credit if a chimp files a federal habeas case?

According to an article in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s online journal yesterday:

In a decision that effectively recognizes chimpanzees as legal persons for the first time, a New York judge today granted a pair of Stony Brook University lab animals the right to have their day in court. The ruling marks the first time in U.S. history that an animal has been covered by a writ of habeas corpus, which typically allows human prisoners to challenge their detention. The judicial action could force the university, which is believed to be holding the chimps, to release the primates, and could sway additional judges to do the same with other research animals.

David Grimm, Judge’s ruling grants legal right to research chimps, Science Insider (April 20, 2015).



Recognizing that the world famous (truly) Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has lots of primates, my law clerks, upon learning of this ruling, asked the most pertinent question. If primates are persons, do we get more staff if the primates file federal habeas corpus petitions? I am interested in your thoughts.


*Many thanks to a former law clerk, who is generally a horrible person, for the tip.


16 responses

  1. RGK,
    Thanks, Judge. Serves me right for monkeying around on the internet when I should be working on finals.


  2. Skink,

    As you know better than most, there is absolutely nothing rational about present day Florida. That, incidentally, is why I have a special affection for the Sunshine State.

    All the best.


  3. Staffing credit? Shouldn’t you be more concerned with the class action suit the rabbits in your backyard garden are going to bring against you for shooting at them.

  4. Anon.,

    Unlike primates, rabbits are not so bright. Besides, if I improve my aim, there won’t be a class for the class action.

    All the best.


  5. Peter H.,

    I wonder whether the facts that the primates involved here were used for “research” made some difference. All the best.


  6. On the one hand, corporations and chimpanzees are persons before the law. On the other, as judges are trained to “get rid of” pro se cases (per Judge Gertner), those who cannot afford lawyers are not.

    The last time apes had more rights than humans in America, Charlton Heston was the star.

  7. I delight in your blog — not because I always agree with it, but rather because I don’t. Instead of simple agreement, I always have something new to ponder after reading your entries and those of the commenters, and I almost always learn something new and surprising.

    Today, however, I feel obliged to point out a minor error. You ask, “If primates are persons, do we get more staff if the primates file federal habeas corpus petitions?”
    I hope the answer is: “Your staffing levels are already adjusted for the numbers of primates who file federal habeas corpus petitions.” I say this as a biological anthropologist cum attorney who helps primates file habeas petitions on a regular basis.

    But how can this be? Perhaps reviewing a partial classification of human beings will explain why I am able to make this claim. Modern humans are classified as follows:

    Kingdom Animalia; Phylum Chordata; Subphylum Vertebrata; Class Mammalia Linnaeus 1758; Subclass Theria Parker and Haswell, 1897; Order Primates Linnaeus, 1758; Suborder Haplorrhini Pocock, 1918; Infraorder Simiiformes Haeckel, 1866; Superfamily Hominoidea Gray, 1825; Family Hominidae Gray, 1825; Subfamily Homininae Gray, 1825; Genus Homo Linnaeus, 1758; Species Homo sapiens Linnaeus 1758.

    (If you would like to see a more complete classification, I recommend that you look at this website:

    If you have been understaffed as a result of some misunderstanding of taxonomy, I hope that the information in this post provides evidence to support a request for an increase in your staffing levels.

  8. Kim,

    Thanks for for your kind words, and, most particularly, for your lesson on the taxonomy of primates and my staffing credits. I think I will now eat another banana (an edible fruit, botanically a berry,produced by several kinds of large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Musa).

    All the best.


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