|Sometimes, a chimpanzee is just a chimpanzee, per Freud.|
At other times, it's a pawn in a misguided legal game.
BBC file photo from Sydney zoo.
For people who cite the "'personhood" of corporations, or the right to legal standing that animals can get under the Endangered Species Act? Those are both more narrow and specific than habeas corpus, which has 800 years of law behind it and is considered the touchstone of civil liberties in general.
As for why such a ruling shouldn't have been granted, writing before the initial pleading, Eric Posner explains, as part of one comment I made at this piece at Massimo Pigliucci's Scientia Salon.
Let's go to Posner, to whom Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe obviously did not listen:
The reason Tommy (a chimp in another habeas case) will lose is that the New York Legislature did not intend to encompass animals within the definition of “person” for filing a habeas petition. If lawmakers had meant to extend the writ of habeas in this way, when that had never been done before, they would have said so. If Hobby Lobby wins, on the other hand, it will be because courts think that Congress did intend to encompass for-profit corporations within the definition of “person” in providing for religious freedom. Whatever you make of these outcomes, you don’t have to worry that chimpanzees, craft stores, and zygotes will use them to conquer the planet and enslave humanity. The law does not turn something into a person by calling it one.
I hope the New York legislature rectifies this error ASAP.
That said, per Science and other media, it may just be that the judge has made this ruling so as to get to further hear Stony Brook's side of the case.
However — and while I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, as a journalist, I have a reasonable understanding of basic issues — I think Jaffe could have used a lesser ruling than granting habeas rights to still get Stony Brook into court to discuss this issue more. So, while I wouldn't read too too much into this ruling, I wouldn't use the phrase or idea of "don't read too much into this" as an invitation to dismiss it, either.
Edit/update: It appears this is what happened, using a legal phrase I was thinking about. Judge Jaffe did NOT grant a habeas writ. Instead, she issued a good old "show cause" order. That order requires Stony Brook to appear in court to argue why a habeas writ should not be issued.
I also find it offensive that the Nonhuman Rights Project tried to compare animal captivity to human slavery by invoking the Somerset decision in its original pleading.
And, per the last comment on the piece, NhRP isn't stopping with chimps; next, reportedly, is an elephant habeas corpus petition.