“I was told, ‘Why are you doing this? You’re gonna ruin your career … you can’t win. You can’t beat the governor.’”
A real estate lawyer in New York for over two decades, Bobbie Anne Cox shifted gears after seeing government officials unwilling to let go of emergency powers they gained during the pandemic. She recently secured a landmark victory against New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s controversial “quarantine camps” regulation.
“So, they basically took the language from that bill that had failed for seven years, they tweaked it a little bit, and then they made it a regulation,” explains Cox. “It is wholly unconstitutional … Forced isolation and quarantine procedures with no due process? No, not in our country.”
Cox says that when a government seizes power from the people, it never returns that power voluntarily. It is up to the people to demand it back.
Bobbie Anne Cox. It’s such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Bobbie Anne Cox:
Thank you for having me on. It’s a pleasure to be here.
I’ve got this headline from the Epoch Times in front of me. “Judge strikes down New York City vaccine mandates.” A very popular article, and New Yorkers are celebrating in the streets. Well, at least some of them. What is your reaction?
It’s a great decision. I read the decision from the judge. Absolutely fantastic. It’s very similar to a decision that I got in my case back in July with the quarantine camps, and it’s fabulous. The decision specifically states that those 16 petitioners, the plaintiffs in that case should immediately be reinstated to have their jobs back with back pay. It is a wonderful decision.
Unfortunately, the city has already filed their notice of appeal. They’re starting the appeal process, which is something that’s very standard. Not long ago, we saw a judge in New York City, actually, it was the same judge, Judge Porzio, a New York State Supreme Court judge in New York City, he struck down the same vaccine mandate for a fireman that had brought a lawsuit, and specifically struck it down. Same thing, immediately, the city appeals the decision.
Now, they’re fighting on appeal. We even saw last year, in 2021, a New York State Supreme Court judge had struck down the vaccine mandate for a police officer. But same thing, it was immediately appealed by the city. So, we’re seeing this pattern of they’re just not letting it go. The city is fighting to keep their mandates.
This strikes me as so odd, because you always imagine New York City as supporting its city workers, whether it’s firemen, whether it’s policemen, or whether it’s sanitation workers. What do you think is going on?
We’re seeing a lot of government overreach. That seems to be an underlying theme that’s going on in not just New York, but in the country. This has become a trend, and they really want to exert power that they don’t have. It’s not powers they’re given as per the Constitution. It’s very upsetting, because we’re seeing it at all levels. We’re seeing it at the city level, the state level, and the federal level.
Are these powers that are coming from these emergency authorizations, or emergencies being declared?
It depends on the situation. Sometimes the executive branch is just giving themselves the power, when they don’t actually have the power, which was the case with my quarantine lawsuit. The governor and the Department of Health literally just gave themselves the power to issue isolation and quarantine procedures. Their attitude is, “We know we can’t do this, but we’re going to do it anyway.” The theory is, “Catch me if you can, come get me if you can, bring a lawsuit, put me back in my place if you can; if you can’t, well, I’m just going to keep this power that I’ve given to myself.”
I want to talk to you about this, the isolation and quarantine procedures regulation which you challenged Governor Hochul on. But the origins of this, if I understand the genesis of this regulation, actually stems back to Cuomo. Can you give me a sense of what this is? It’s actually kind of shocking to most people that such idea could even be talked about in polite company, so to speak. Can you lay it out for me here?
Yes, you’re exactly right. It did start with Cuomo. Actually, it started a little bit before that. I’ll just go back a little bit. In 2015, there was an Ebola outbreak. Most people probably weren’t aware of it, because it wasn’t something like COVID-19. But as a result of that, there was a New York state assemblyman, Nick Perry, a Democrat from Brooklyn.
He proposed a law, starting in 2015, for seven years, straight through the end of 2021. In 2021, he was appointed by Biden to become the ambassador to Jamaica. He’s no longer a New York state assemblymen. But for seven years, while he was an assemblyman, he did propose this bill, which was very similar to the regulation that I got struck down.
That bill specifically said, in essence, that the governor and the Department of Health could pick and choose which New Yorkers they could lock up or lock down in quarantine or isolation if they thought you had a communicable disease. That bill failed for seven years.
In fact, if you combine the number of New York state senators and New York State Assembly members, you get a total of 213 members in the New York State legislature. Not one of them would get behind that bill. It never went to a vote. It never even got out of committee. It was introduced in the health committee in the assembly.
In fact, the Democrat chairman of that committee made a public statement in 2021 and said, “We’re not even going to vote on this,” because people were getting so upset. They had learned about this bill and they were just so upset about the thought of being forced into isolation or quarantine with no proof that you were even sick. So, it was denounced.
It was never brought to a vote. Ultimately, Assemblyman Nick Perry withdrew it from consideration. So what happens then, in March of 2020, Cuomo is still the governor, and emergency powers are given to him by the New York State legislature because of COVID-19, and this pandemic. We don’t even know what this is, this is crazy. Everybody is so scared.
They voted, and they gave him emergency powers, which had never been done before. What they did was that they allowed for directives. They allowed him to issue directives. What that really meant was he was allowed to make law. That in and of itself is unconstitutional.
The legislative branch can’t delegate their law-making power to another branch of government. But they did. And for a whole year, Cuomo had this power. When he got this power in March of 2020, he then passed it on to his commissioner of health. That’s when this regulation was made.
They basically took the language from that bill that had failed for seven years. They tweaked it a little bit, and then they made it into a regulation. They said, “We have this authority, because we have these emergency powers.” The problem was that once Cuomo lost those powers in March of 2021, the power to make that regulation should have also disappeared. But it didn’t, and the Department of Health just kept issuing that same regulation over and over again every couple of months.
Then, in August of 2021, Governor Cuomo steps down. Kathy Hochul rises from lieutenant governor to governor, and she has her Department of Health continue to issue this same isolation and quarantine procedures regulation. She was never given an emergency power by the legislature. She didn’t have the authority to do that. That’s when I found out about it. I said, “Absolutely not. I have to bring a lawsuit. This is totally unconstitutional.”
Can you lay out for me exactly what this regulation says? Now I can understand why you describe it as a law masquerading as a regulation. What does it actually allow the government to do? Please lay it out.
The isolation and quarantines procedure regulation would allow the Department of Health to choose which New Yorkers they could lock up or lock down. They could have locked you up in your home, or they could have removed you from your home and locked you into a facility of their choosing. There was absolutely no restraint in this regulation.
They could have locked you up for days, for weeks, or for months. They could have told you where you could go. You had no choice. You couldn’t just say, “Oh, I’ll lock down in my home.” No, they could remove you from your home if they wanted to. They didn’t have to prove that you were sick. They didn’t have to prove you were exposed to a communicable disease, there were no age restrictions.
They could have done this to you, your child, your grandchild, or your elderly parent. They could have used law enforcement. You could have gotten a knock on your door from the local police or the sheriff. “I’m sorry, you need to come with us. We have here a decree from the Department of Health. You have to go into isolation or quarantine.
“You couldn’t negotiate your way out. What I mean by that is there were no provisions in the regulation where you could say, “Wait a minute, I don’t have tuberculosis, or I don’t have monkeypox, or I don’t have COVID-19. I’ll take a test. I’ll prove it.” No. There was nothing in the regulation that would allow you to try to negotiate your way out of this.
To challenge this.
Exactly. And in fact, when we were having oral arguments in front of the judge, the judge asked the attorney general’s office, “If you take a family and you’ve put them into isolation in a facility or a hospital, how do they get out?” There was a pregnant pause, and then the attorney general’s office said, “Well, I guess they could hire a lawyer and they could sue.”
That is an absolutely astounding thing that you just told me. This is telling me that this wasn’t focused on the people. It was focused on the regulation or the needs of the government or the whim of the government, but not on where I would imagine things should be focused—on the wellbeing of the person in question.
Absolutely. Whether it’s the state constitution in New York or the federal Constitution, the Constitution says you have to have due process protections built into your laws and your regulations. In this instance, there were no due process protections. In the regulation they said, “In accordance with due process, we can do the following.” But there were no actual due process steps or procedures put into that regulation.
In the judge’s decision, he actually said, “This regulation gives lip service to due process. You mentioned it, but you don’t actually have any due process built in there.” It was really obvious that this regulation was extremely one-sided; it just gave this unbelievable unfettered power to the government. They gave it to themselves—the Department of Health, and the governor. This didn’t come from the legislature.
In fact, as I explained, we saw that for seven years a very similar bill failed. Not one New York state legislator would get behind it, even the Democrats. It’s the story of a tyrannical governor and her Department of Health doing something that they want to do, but the people don’t want them to do it. The people’s representatives in the New York State Senate and the Assembly don’t want them to do it, but they did it anyway.
Let’s go to this. You were a very successful real estate lawyer in the New York area. Again, this is something that isn’t necessarily your wheelhouse, fighting quarantine camp legislation or regulation.
No. I’ve been practicing law for 25 years here in New York, and my wheelhouse was real estate. I did transactional real estate work, but I also did property tax work representing property owners and going up against local government, towns, cities, and villages. I would sue the local government on behalf of my clients if I thought that their property valuations were too high, and therefore their property taxes were too high.
And so, I was used to suing the government, but on the local level for private individuals. This was the first time I was suing the governor and the Department of Health over an illegal, unconstitutional regulation on behalf of 19 million New Yorkers. I knew I had to get some New York State legislators to be the plaintiffs on this case, because the governor and the Department of Health was not yet actually pulling people out of their homes and locking them in facilities.
This is actually very important that this regulation was never used before it was struck down. I want to touch on that, but I want to dig into this further. You had a successful legal business doing good work, by all accounts. What was the moment that you learned of this or what was it that went through your mind? Obviously, you had to reschool yourself somewhat to take this on, I would imagine. This wasn’t a casual decision. Please tell me about this.
I basically had to make a choice. In March of 2020, when Governor Cuomo had said, “Okay, everybody, we’re going to lock down. Everybody stay in your home, close your business, close the schools, just two weeks to flatten the curve,” the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I said, “Oh, no, no, no, the government doesn’t do anything for just two weeks.”
Remember, I’ve been suing the government for 20-something years. I know that they don’t work that fast. I knew it wasn’t going to be just two weeks. But I also said to myself, “This is completely unconstitutional. He can’t do this. He can’t force people to shut their businesses and stay home.” So, I started to speak out almost immediately. People were really upset, because as you know, those lockdowns did not last just two weeks.
Here in New York State those lockdowns lasted months and people were getting decimated, especially the small business owners who had worked their whole lives to build up their livelihoods and their businesses. They were losing them, because the governor was telling them they couldn’t go to work, and they couldn’t open their doors.
People were losing their homes, because they couldn’t pay their rent or they couldn’t pay their mortgages. The landlords were getting just totally squashed, because all of a sudden, the CDC, who by the way doesn’t have the power to do this, told landlords that they couldn’t evict tenants for nonpayment of rent, because it somehow spread COVID.
Now, you have the landlords calling me. I was in real estate, so, they’re calling me, “Do we have to do this? Do we have to follow this? How do I pay my bills? I still have to pay my property taxes. I still have to pay my mortgage, but nobody’s paying me rent anymore.”
We were seeing small businesses and landlords just getting decimated by the government. All of this pain and suffering was going on. People were reaching out to me for help, and asking for advice. The virus was dangerous and hurting people, but most of what I was hearing from people reaching out to me for help was about what the government was doing to them. I said, “I can’t stand by and watch this anymore.” So, I actually started making videos and posting them online so people could get information about what is legal, and what is not.
I started a YouTube channel to help people understand what their rights are, and the Constitution. YouTube tore that down, because they didn’t like what I was saying. But then I switched over to Rumble, so now I have a Rumble channel. Also, I started giving speeches. People were saying, “Can you come talk to our group and explain this—what can we do, and what can’t we do; what is legal and what is not?”
So, I started giving speeches and crisscrossing New York state and helping to educate people. Then, a citizens group formed, Uniting New York State. One of the members there brought this regulation to my attention. I said, “This is unbelievable.” They said, “I can’t believe it, is this real?” I read this isolation and quarantine procedures regulation and said, “Unfortunately, it’s real, but there’s no way it’s legal.”
I had to make a choice, because I’m a solo practitioner. I used to work in a large New York City law firm when I was first out of law school, but I had left there 20 years ago and started my own law office. I knew I had to choose between continuing my practice or taking on this case, because I couldn’t handle both. And so, I have put my practice to the side and for the past several months I’ve been working on this case.
I’m really glad that I made that choice, especially because I’m doing the case pro bono. It was a really big decision to take on. But I’m glad that I did, because it was the right thing to do. And ultimately, the judge ruled in our favor. It is wholly unconstitutional and has no place, not just in New York, but in the United States of America. Forced isolation and quarantine procedures with no due process? No, not in our country.
Just out of curiosity, what are your politics?
I’m representing a group of New York state legislators in this lawsuit; Senator George Borrello, Assemblyman Chris Tague, Assemblyman Mike Lawler, together with Uniting New York State, the citizens group. All of them are Republicans.
And there’s another group of legislators in New York State legislature who wrote an amicus brief to support the case. That’s Assemblyman Andy Goodell. He’s an attorney. He’s the one that authored the brief. Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, and then Assemblyman Will Barclay also signed onto the amicus brief. And they’re all Republicans.
They’re actually top-ranking Republicans in the New York State Assembly. I’m actually a Democrat. That’s something no one really knows, because I don’t really talk about that publicly. In my mind, this is not a political thing, this is a human rights issue. This is a constitutional issue, and it really shouldn’t be about politics. Some media like to spin it that way.
This is the kind of thing that’s been spun as some sort of conservative right-wing talking point, but it really isn’t.
Yes, it’s not at all. This is not a Left or Right thing. This is about being an American, and it’s something people have really forgotten. It’s not people’s fault. It’s because we just really don’t teach this in school anymore. We don’t really teach the Constitution, and it should be required, from the little kids all the way up through high school and college.
The Constitution was written to keep the government in check. The Constitution wasn’t written to keep the people in check. We really need to get back to that methodology. The Constitution is not perfect, but it’s brilliant, in my opinion. It’s brilliant because it was written by our founding fathers who came from tyranny. They lived through tyranny under a king in England who gave them no voice and no representation.
They just felt like they were subject to his every whim, which they were. He was a king. They broke free, and they started the United States of America. They wrote this Constitution with that in mind. They wrote the Constitution in such a manner that if it’s followed, there wouldn’t be tyranny on these shores ever. Yet, here we are 250 years later and we’re fighting tyranny.
I wasn’t one of these people that looked and saw these shelter-in-place policies and everything that came with it, these kinds of regulations that we’re just discussing right now, and think to myself, “My goodness, this is tyranny.” I imagine a lot of people didn’t, however some people did. When I first heard people say, “This is obviously tyranny,” I thought, “Well, that feels a bit much.” That was what I thought. Why is it tyranny?
The definition of tyranny is when a leader takes power that they’re not entitled to. I’m kind of generalizing it and summing it up. But that’s the essence of what tyranny is. What we’re definitely seeing over and over again here in New York as you mentioned earlier with the New York City mandates, and also the governor and her Department of Health, we’re seeing they are taking power that they don’t have.
The Constitution clearly gives us three branches of government and defines what those branches can and can’t do. It gives the executive branch, that’s the governor, or on the federal level that would be the president. You’ve got the governor and the executive branch, and they’re supposed to enforce laws, and the agencies beneath them are supposed to help them enforce laws. They’re not supposed to make laws. Then, you have the judicial branch, which is the courts and the judges. Then, you have the legislative branch, which in New York state is the Senate and the Assembly. They’re supposed to make laws.
They’re all supposed to be coequal, and they’re all supposed to work with checks and balances to keep each other in balance. In this case with the quarantine camps, when you have the governor and the executive branch taking the power of the legislature and trying both to make law and enforce law—that’s tyranny. She’s taking a power that was never assigned to her. And who suffers? When there is tyranny, it’s the people who suffer.