The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a First Amendment case stemming from a New York official’s pressuring banks not to do business with the National Rifle Association (NRA).
In NRA v. Vullo, the justices will consider whether the First Amendment allows “a government regulator to threaten regulated entities with adverse regulatory actions” for doing business with a controversial speaker. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the NRA’s lawsuit in 2020, finding that it failed to prove former superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services Maria Vullo “crossed the line between attempts to convince and attempts to coerce.”
“The Second Circuit’s opinion below gives state officials free rein to financially blacklist their political opponents—from gun-rights groups, to abortion-rights groups, to environmentalist groups, and beyond,” the NRA wrote in its petition, adding that the “public importance of this case cannot be overstated.”
BREAKING NEWS: The Supreme Court has granted cert to NRA v. Vullo, one of the nation’s most high-profile First Amendment cases. pic.twitter.com/JWtFZIJNnn
— NRA (@NRA) November 3, 2023
Vullo employed “backchannel threats, ominous guidance letters, and selective enforcement of regulatory infractions” to “induce banks and insurance companies to avoid doing business with” the NRA, according to the NRA’s petition.
She opened investigations into three insurance providers that partnered with the NRA for violations of New York insurance law, according to court documents.
Vullo also issued letters after the Parkland, Florida high school shooting in 2018 urging banks and insurance companies to consider the “reputational risks” that could come from doing business with the NRA and similar groups.
The NRA filed its initial lawsuit in 2018 after providers entered into consent decrees imposing millions in fines. The original lawsuit also named former Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Department of Financial Services as defendants.
“We are grateful the Supreme Court will review this First Amendment case and excited by the opportunity to argue to the Court that a government regulator cannot take adverse action against its political enemies,” said NRA counsel William A. Brewer III in a statement. “The ruling from the Second Circuit condones public officials having unbridled power to attack those with whom they disagree.”
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