The Supreme Court revives NRA's First Amendment lawsuit against New York

 May 31, 2024

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday in favor of the National Rifle Association, determining that appeals judges acted hastily in dismissing the organization's claims that New York officials infringed upon its First Amendment rights by singling out its insurance business.

The ruling reinstated a legal action initiated by the NRA in 2018 against Maria Vullo, the highest-ranking financial services regulator in New York state, as Politico reported.

Vullo had previously declared her intention to exert pressure on insurance companies and banks to cease conducting business with the gun-rights organization.

From the Justices

“Vullo was free to criticize the NRA and pursue the conceded violations of New York insurance law,” wrote Sotomayor, the most senior liberal justice and an appointee of President Barack Obama.

“She could not wield her power, however, to threaten enforcement actions against [state-]regulated entities in order to punish or suppress the NRA’s gun-promotion advocacy.

"The First Amendment prohibits government officials from wielding their power selectively to punish or suppress speech, directly or (as alleged here) through private intermediaries.”

Additionally, Sotomayor observed that the state's measures against insurance companies seemed to be an extension of a more extensive scheme orchestrated by former Governor Andrew Cuomo with the intention of "suspending" and "disrupting" the NRA.

The Court's Opinion

The court's opinion was authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has consistently opposed the NRA in cases involving the Second Amendment. Its conclusion stated that, should proved, the state's actions violated the group's constitutionally protected advocacy.

Sotomayor arrived at this deduction notwithstanding the NRA's admission that certain insurance policies it distributed in New York were in violation of state legislation.

The high court is also scheduled to render a decision on a similar dispute concerning the Biden administration's efforts to convince social media companies to remove or obscure posts containing alleged misinformation about the coronavirus, elections, and other matters. As a result, the case was being closely observed for its potential ramifications on that dispute.

Amendment Violation

A judge determined that the attempt also involved First Amendment-violating coercion and imposed severe restrictions on federal officials' and social media companies' communications.

This order was stayed pending the justices' deliberation of the case, the outcome of which is anticipated within the following weeks.

In the NRA case, two justices, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Neil Gorsuch, submitted concurring opinions. Jackson's emphasized legal nuances that may prove decisive in the case concerning the purported government coercion of social media companies.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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