Court dismisses NRA lawsuit over freedom of speech

Last week, a federal appeals court ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit by the National Rifle Association (NRA) accusing a New York regulatory agency of violating the NRA’s First Amendment rights by pressuring banks and insurers to stop doing business with the gun rights group, reported Reuters.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said the NRA failed to prove that Maria Vullo, the former New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) superintendent, “crossed the line between attempts at persuasion and attempts at coercion.”

After the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., Vullo urged banks and insurers to consider the “reputational risks” of doing business with gun rights groups. Vullo later fined over $13 million for selling NRA-approved products, which New York deemed illegal, according to Reuters. Insurers dropped the NRA-backed products.

Vullo issued a press release urging “all insurance companies and banks doing business in New York to join the companies that have already terminated their agreements with the NRA and take immediate action to manage these risks.” and to promote public health and safety,” the court documents state.

The NRA then sued Vullo, the DFS and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, saying the state’s actions would deprive the NRA of basic financial services and its ability to perform its mission.

A lower court judge dismissed all of the NRA’s claims except for two free speech claims against Vullo. In the most recent decision, however, the Court of Appeals declared that all claims should be dismissed.

“[E]Even assuming that the NRA has sufficiently pleaded that Vullo committed unconstitutional threats or coercion, we conclude that Vullo is nevertheless entitled to qualified immunity given the statute’s ambiguity and a breach of the first change would not have been obvious to a reasonable official at the time,” the court said closed. “The complaint’s allegations of fact show that, far from acting irresponsibly, Vullo carried out its work in good faith… Accordingly, even if the NRA plausibly alleges a breach of the First Amendment, Vullo would in any event be protected by qualified immunity.” “, according to the opinion of the court.

It is possible that the NRA could challenge the case to the Supreme Court.

“The Second Circuit’s decision regarding the NRA’s claims against Ms. Vullo misstates the facts and violates the First Amendment.” said NRA attorney William A. Brewer. He said the NRA is “assessing its options,” including certiorari in the Supreme Court. Court dismisses NRA lawsuit over freedom of speech

Laura Coffey

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