Two NY Federal Judges Consecutively Step Down From Vaccine Mandate Lawsuits Over Ownership of Pfizer Stock

A third judge was also asked to step down
By Enrico Trigoso
Enrico Trigoso
Enrico Trigoso
Reporter
Enrico Trigoso is an Epoch Times reporter focusing on the NYC area.
June 15, 2022 Updated: June 16, 2022

An Obama-appointed federal judge in New York who owns between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of Pfizer stock has recused herself to avoid the possible appearance of bias or prejudice since she was overseeing a case of NYC teachers trying to get exemptions to the COVID vaccines.

Recusal, in legal terms, means that a judge excuses him or herself because of a potential conflict of interest.

Valerie Caproni is a United States District Court for the Southern District of New York who was overseeing two cases that could potentially have a conflict of interest.

“Plaintiffs argue that the Undersigned’s ownership of stock in Pfizer Inc. ‘constitutes a direct financial conflict of interest in the outcome of this case,'” reads the order granting recusal (pdf) of Caproni—the first judge—which was filed on June 11.

Att. Sujata Gibson, who represents one of the lawsuits, Kane et al. v. de Blasio, told The Epoch Times: “Federal law prohibits federal judges from taking part in a case in which they have any financial interest, no matter how small. Pfizer stocks have been impacted by court injunctions against COVID vaccine mandates, and ownership of this stock, therefore, constitutes a conflict of interest. We are glad that Judge Caproni is stepping down after improperly overseeing this case for eight months.”

The second appointed judge also stepped down for similar reasons.

On the morning of June 14, plaintiffs filed a motion to disqualify Judge Edgardo Ramos, who was initially assigned and has agreed to step down due to his investments in Pfizer and other COVID vaccine stocks.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, Edgardo Ramos and other 130 federal judges broke the law by overseeing court cases where they or their families owned stock in the company or companies involved.

According to the outlet, Ramos handled a lawsuit between TIG Insurance Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp. unit related to pollution allegations while owning up to $50,000 of Exxon stock.

A third judge, who also appeared to own Pfizer and J&J stocks, was asked to step down but denied the request.

“Application denied. The application is based on outdated information,” Judge Naomi Buchwald responded on June 14.

Gibson’s team requested updated financial disclosures.

“The court has now twice reassigned the case to other members of the judiciary with even worse financial conflicts of interest,” Gibson said. “We were alerted that the case was reassigned to the Hon. Naomi Reice Buchwald, who owned up to a quarter of a million dollars in Pfizer stock, and up to $100,000 in Johnson and Johnson stock as of 2020. We have three times now asked that the Court appoint a judge without financial conflicts of interest.”

Epoch Times Photo
Michael Kane speaks outside the Australian Consulate to protesters supporting people locked up in Australia for being unvaccinated, Manhattan, New York, on Dec 4, 2021 (Enrico Trigoso/The Epoch Times)

Children’s Health Defense, a non-profit organization founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is sponsoring the two cases in NYC, representing workers that were fired for rejecting the jabs.

On Nov. 13, 2021, some NYC teachers were granted a right to reapply for their religious exemptions, overturning Caproni’s original denial of relief.

Main plaintiff Michael Kane told The Epoch Times: “Judge Caproni presided over my case for more than 8 months knowing the entire time she had a conflict of interest in owning Pfizer stock. I can’t help but think of all the teachers and New Yorkers who are now on welfare, losing their homes, can barely feed their children, and wonder if it would have been different for them if only we had an impartial judge before us.”

In March, NYC Mayor Eric Adams granted vaccination exemption for the city’s athletes and performers and later denied accusations of being lobbied by economic groups to nullify the requirement.

“What our economic team has been doing is stating, ‘How do we turn around our economy?’” Adams said during an appearance on FOX5 in March.

Mayor Eric Adams
New York City Mayor Eric Adams gives a speech at Kings Theatre, in the Flatbush neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough in New York on April 26, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“That’s why we did the outside dining, that’s why we lifted the determination of must-have the vaccine inside the restaurants. We listen to people and stated we’re going to do this at the right time so that we can turn around our economy and make sure we don’t do it [in a way] that’s going to impact our health,” Adams said.

However, Adams admitted that ex-City Council Speaker Corey Johnson lobbied him on behalf of the Brooklyn Nets prior to granting exemptions to local athletes from New York’s vaccine mandates.

“Corey reached out, clearly stated he was speaking on behalf of the Nets when he reached out,” Adams said. “I received calls from people who were against and for—that happens in this city. I said, ‘Corey, like any other person, I’m going based on what my doctors stated.’”

In the public record of the contract, it shows that the lobbying is targeting three city officials: Eric Adams, Frank Carone, Adams’s counselor, and his chief legal adviser Brendan McGuire.

Epoch Times Photo
Screenshot of a table from the New York Office of The City Clerk. (Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

The Epoch Times reached out to Caproni’s office for comment.

Enrico Trigoso
Enrico Trigoso is an Epoch Times reporter focusing on the NYC area.