Happy the Elephant has very strong views about venue for his, ah, quixotic habeas corpus case. As I noted in December, a judge in Orleans County, New York, ordered the case transferred to the Bronx, where Happy lives at the Bronx Zoo. Recently, Happy has filed a motion to reconsider and a motion for leave to appeal. All of the papers are available on the website of the Nonhuman Rights Project.

When I say that Happy has strong views, of course I meant that his lawyers, or rather the lawyers (he certainly didn’t hire them!) have very strong views. And the lead lawyer, Steven Wise, has been extremely clear about the reasons why. Courts in the Bronx, he says, “aren’t amenable to his arguments.” Usually when a lawyer seeks a particular venue in the hopes it will be more favorable than some other possible venue, he or she will clothe the choice in some appropriate policy that has something to do with venue: some of the significant events in the case happened in the chosen venue, or one of the parties lives there, or something. Here there is no fig leaf. The choice of venue was forum shopping pure and simple. And since, as I read the papers, the judge had discretion to transfer the case, it’s difficult to see why the NhRP thinks that its arguments will be persuasive.

I have to wonder whether the time and energy the lawyers have put into their arguments about venue could have been better spent lobbying for improved animal welfare laws, or asking the government to enforce existing laws for Happy’s benefit. Perhaps Happy would wonder the same thing, if he were a person.