Never have I ever seen someone as devoted to a pointless and overly simplistic kind of forum shopping as Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project. A few months ago, Mr. Wise’s organization brought a habeas corpus petition, supposedly on behalf of elephants kept at the Fresno Zoo. The NhRP didn’t bring the case in Fresno, but instead in San Francisco. Whereas the NhRP’s earlier forum shopping, in New York, was at least supported by the desire to avoid an unfavorable local precedent, there didn’t seem to be anything to its attempt in California, beyond crude stereotypes about San Francisco versus Fresno. Unsurprisingly, the San Francisco court transferred the case to Fresno, where the elephants are, holding that however the NhRP chose to characterize its claims, it was really seeking to challenge the conditions of the elephants’ confinement (which, in California, is an important factor in deciding where a habeas case should be brought).
But the NhRP really, really wanted to be in San Francisco, and so once the case was transferred to Fresno, it filed a motion seeking to have the case retransferred to San Francisco. You have to pause and ask whether this makes any litigation sense. Anyway, and to no one’s surprise, the court denied the motion in a short order, which means that the judge in Fresno will now rule on the petition. Whether the petition is granted or denied, we will almost certainly then begin the slog through the California appellate system, with the likely but these days hardly assured result that the California Supreme Court will hold that an elephant cannot petition for habeas corpus.