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Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. R.W. Commerford and Sons, Inc.

Appellate Court of Connecticut

August 20, 2019

NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC.
v.
R.W. COMMERFORD AND SONS, INC., et al.

         Argued April 22, 2019

         Appeal from Superior Court, Judicial District of Litchfield at Torrington, Bentivegna, J.

Page 840

          Steven M. Wise, pro hac vice, with whom were David B. Zabel, Bridgeport and, on the brief, Barbara M. Schellenberg, Orange, for the appellant (petitioner).

         Thomas R. Cherry filed a brief for Laurence H. Tribe as amicus curiae.

         Thomas R. Cherry filed a brief for Justin Marceau et al. as amici curiae.

         Mark A. Dubois filed a brief as amicus curiae.

          Jessica S. Rubin filed a brief for The Philosophers as amici curiae.

         Lavine, Keller and Elgo, Js.

          OPINION

         KELLER, J.

         [192 Conn.App. 38] The petitioner, Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc., appeals from the judgment of the habeas court declining[1] to issue a writ of habeas corpus that it sought on behalf of three elephants, Beulah, Minnie, and Karen (elephants), who are alleged to be confined by the named respondents, R.W. Commerford & Sons, Inc. (also known as the Commerford Zoo), and its president, William R. Commerford, at the Commerford Zoo in Goshen.[2] The petitioner argues that the court erred in (1) dismissing its petition for a writ of habeas corpus on the basis that it lacked standing, (2) denying its subsequent motion to amend the petition, and (3) dismissing the habeas petition on the alternative ground that it was "wholly frivolous." For the reasons discussed herein, we agree with the habeas

Page 841

court that the petitioner lacked standing.[3] Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the habeas court.

         On November 13, 2017, the petitioner filed a verified petition for a common-law writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the elephants pursuant to General Statutes § 52-466 et seq. and Practice Book § 23-21 et seq. The petitioner alleged that it is a not-for-profit corporation with a mission of changing "the common law status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere things, [192 Conn.App. 39] which lack the capacity to possess any legal rights, to persons, who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty, and those other legal rights to which evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and ...


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