Supreme Court rules in favor of NRA

The Supreme Court unanimously decided the NRA plausibly alleged that the New York Department of Financial Services violated its First Amendment rights by pressuring financial institutions to cut ties with the gun rights group.

The Court said government officials cannot coerce private parties to suppress dissenting views.

It vacated the lower court’s dismissal and remanded the case, allowing the NRA’s suit to continue.

The NRA had sued New York financial regulator Maria Vullo and former governor Andrew Cuomo, alleging Vullo made “backroom threats” against regulated entities, accompanied by leniency offers, if they would blacklist the NRA due to government hostility towards its viewpoint.

“The judgment of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is vacated, and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” the court stated.

“Six decades ago, this Court held that a government entity’s ‘threat of invoking legal sanctions and other means of coercion’ against a third party ‘to achieve the suppression’ of disfavored speech violates the First Amendment,” the opinion read.

“Today, the Court reaffirms what it said then: Government officials cannot attempt to coerce private parties in order to punish or suppress views that the government disfavors,” it states. “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,” the court’s opinion read.

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

“Today’s decision confirms that government officials have no business using their regulatory authority to blacklist disfavored political groups,” stated ACLU national legal director David Cole.

While Vullo’s counsel said the ruling treated untested allegations as true and qualified immunity would still apply, the decision affirmed that government cannot use regulatory power to punish dissenting advocacy groups.

“We are disappointed by the Court’s decision. As the Court’s decision makes clear, because of the posture of this case, this ruling required the Court to treat the NRA’s untested allegations as true even though these allegations have no evidentiary merit,” Hogan Lovells’ Neal Katyal stated.

“This case will now go back to the Second Circuit, which threw out the lawsuit on qualified immunity grounds before. The Supreme Court did not address the qualified immunity decision of the Second Circuit, and we are confident Ms. Vullo’s claim of qualified immunity will be reaffirmed,” Katyal said, adding, “Ms. Vullo did not violate anyone’s First Amendment rights.”