July 20, 2024

US Supreme Court unanimously decides NRA’s First Amendment possibly violated after New York state office ‘coerced’ banks and companies to stop doing business with them.

The US Supreme Court unanimously sided with the National Rifle Association in a pivotal case Thursday, writing the group “plausibly alleged” a First Amendment violation after a New York state office ordered banks and other institutions to stop doing business with them.

SCOTUSBlog.com has more:

In a unanimous decision by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the justices agreed that the NRA had made out a case that Maria Vullo, then the head of New York’s Department of Financial Services, had gone too far in her efforts to get companies and banks to cut ties with the NRA, crossing over the line from efforts to persuade the companies and banks – which would be permitted – to attempts to coerce them, which are not.

Delivering the unanimous decision of the Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote SCOTUS “holds that the NRA plausibly alleged that [then-New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T.] Vullo violated the First Amendment by coercing DFS-regulated entities to terminate their business relationships with the NRA in order to punish or suppress the NRA’s advocacy.” 

The decision overturns a lower court’s previous ruling and means the NRA can proceed with its lawsuit against New York for constitutional infringement.

“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 wrote.

The decision went on to note the “government entity’s” attempt to coerce third parties over “views the government disfavors” effectively amounted to suppression of free speech.

“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 Court stated.

“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,” the opinion states. “Petitioner National Rifle Association (NRA) plausibly alleges that respondent Maria Vullo did just that.”

The issue started after Vullo had a knee-jerk anti-Second Amendment reaction to the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

SCOTUSBlog explains:

That prompted Vullo to issue a press statement and “guidance” letters in which she called on insurance companies and banks to consider the risks to their reputations from doing business with groups, like the NRA, that promote guns.

After some insurance companies and banks severed their relationships with the NRA, the NRA went to federal court, where it argued that Vullo violated the group’s right to freedom of speech by coercing the companies and banks to stop doing business with the NRA.

Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy allowed the NRA’s lawsuit to go forward. Vullo appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which reversed. It ruled that the NRA’s allegations against Vullo did not rise to “an unconstitutional threat or coercion to chill the NRA’s free speech.” And in any event, it added, Vullo would have been entitled to immunity because the law governing Vullo’s conduct was not clear.

The NRA celebrated the ruling on social media, with NRA President Bob Barr stating, “Regulators are now on notice: this is a win for not only the NRA, but every organization who might otherwise suffer from an abuse of government power.”

🚨BREAKING: @NRA Prevails at the Supreme Court!

Read the decision⬇️https://t.co/cAU9EvFEKY pic.twitter.com/f0LXKyGAUt

— NRA (@NRA) May 30, 2024

“This victory is a win for the NRA in the fight to protect freedom,” Barr wrote. “This is a historic moment for the NRA in its stand against governmental overreach. Let this be clear: the voice of the NRA membership is as loud and influential as ever. Regulators are now on notice: this is a win for not only the NRA, but every organization who might otherwise suffer from an abuse of government power.”

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