Thursday, August 24, 2023

The Story of Happy the Elephant

Matter of  Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Breheny

By Dylon T. Newkirk
Dylon Newkirk has just begun his final year at Albany Law School and is expecting to graduate in May of 2024. During his time at Albany Law, Dylon has held various executive board positions. Dylon is the treasurer of the Historical Society of the New York Courts-Albany Law Chapter, Social Media Director for the Albany Law Golf Club, and treasurer and Assistant Captain for the Albany Law Hockey Club. Dylon is also a law clerk at Pierro, Connor & Strauss, LLC.
Prior to attending Albany Law, Dylon attended SUNY Albany, earning a Bachelor's degree in Political Science with dual minors in Business and Economics. Outside of the classroom, he greatly enjoys any time spent outdoors – whether he’s teeing it up on the links, or strolling through his carefully manicured flower garden.

The New York Court of Appeals has historically leaned liberal and been ahead of its time. The highest court in the state of New York has been on the forefront of guaranteeing rights years ahead of other states and the federal government. Unfortunately, that historical trend did not hold true in the case of Matter of Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Breheny.

Happy is a fifty-one-year-old Asian elephant who is currently being housed in the Bronx Zoo. Happy has been there for most of her life, stuck for the entertainment of millions of people, after she was stolen from Thailand as an infant elephant. But things were not always so bad for Happy. At one point in time, she had her herd, but they have slowly died off. Therefore, Happy now lives in solitary confinement.

A petition for habeas corpus was brought on Happy’s behalf, but the Court of Appeals ruled that habeas corpus can only apply to humans. Did the court rule incorrectly? What can we make of the longest dissent in Court of Appeals history? Could a new court possibly reverse the error? This paper takes an in-depth look at Nonhuman Rights Project v. Breheny and attempts to answer these questions.
To read the paper, open HERE.