Supreme Court Unanimously Rules in Favor of the NRA in Battle with New York State


In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has sided with the National Rifle Association against former New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo in a First Amendment case.

The court ruled that the NRA’s case against Vullo for allegedly violating the organization’s rights under the First Amendment can continue, overruling a decision two years ago from the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals.

The suit was first filed by the NRA against Vullo in 2018, according to NBC News, because Vullo had encouraged insurance companies not to work with the gun-rights advocacy group, claiming that being affiliated with it would damage their reputations.

“[I]n the aftermath of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed, Vullo urged insurance companies and banks to reconsider any relationships they had with gun rights-affiliated groups,” the outlet reported.

Vullo’s legal team, however, argued that it was “well established” that authorities in positions similar to Vullo’s at the time could lawfully advocate for the consideration of “reputational risks” by private companies.

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The NRA argued that that urging amounted to unlawful coercion by a government official, a position that liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, authoring the decision, said was at least “plausible” and should be decided by a lower court.

Somewhat surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union sided with the NRA, despite its usual association with left-wing causes and organizations.

The group said in a March statement that it supports free speech “no matter the speaker.”

“[T]he reality that we have joined forces [with the NRA] … reflects the importance of the First Amendment principles at stake in this case,” the ACLU wrote.

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Sotomayor said that the NRA had yet to prove its claims again Vullo, but if those claims are demonstrated to be accurate, its likely that Vullo did violate the group’s free speech rights.

“Government officials cannot attempt to coerce private parties in order to punish or suppress views that the government disfavors,” she wrote. “Petitioner National Rifle Association (NRA) plausibly alleges that respondent Maria Vullo did just that.

“As superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services, Vullo allegedly pressured regulated entities to help her stifle the NRA’s pro-gun advocacy by threatening enforcement actions against those entities that refused to disassociate from the NRA and other gun-promotion advocacy groups.

“Those allegations, if true, state a First Amendment claim,” she concluded.

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote concurring opinions.

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Interested readers can find the Supreme Court’s full opinion here.

Vullo is expected to argue that she is protected by the limited immunity granted public officials. SCOTUS made no decision on that subject.

The limited immunity doctrine “allows public officials to evade liability if they were not on notice at the time of the alleged conduct that their actions were unconstitutional,” NBC wrote.

“Ms. Vullo did not violate anyone’s First Amendment rights. Ms. Vullo enforced the insurance law against admitted violations by insurance entities,” one of her lawyers, Neal Katyal, wrote in response to the ruling.

He added that he expected her to prevail in the limited immunity argument as well.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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