A New York court on Thursday denied an appeal that sought "legal personhood" for a captive chimpanzee named Tommy, meaning that he'll remain imprisoned in his cage for the time being.
The New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division heard an appeal for Tommy's case back in October. Tommy was represented by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NRP), an organization that has been fighting for legal personhood on behalf of Tommy and three other chimps.
The lawyers argued that because chimpanzees are emotionally complex, socially intelligent and highly self-aware, they should legally be defined as "nonhuman persons." This is not to say that they would be afforded all the rights that people have, but that they would have the right to bodily liberty and freedom from imprisonment. For this to apply, the lawyers hoped to invoke habeas corpus, a writ traditionally used to prevent people from being wrongfully imprisoned.
But the court ruled this week that the writ would not apply in this case, saying that it had not ever been sought before on behalf of a chimpanzee.