Dozens upon dozens of political leaders, lawmakers, scholars and organizations have filed or joined amicus briefs at the Supreme Court in support of the National Rifle Association’s First Amendment lawsuit against a former New York state regulator accused of weaponizing her office to silence the civil rights organization, Fox News Digital has learned.
“This support from organizations and scholars across the political divide validates the NRA’s position: New York government officials violated the First Amendment when they weaponized the powers of their office to silence a perceived political enemy. As evidenced in the chorus of voices that emerged, this case is important to not only the NRA but to all who engage in public advocacy,” NRA counsel William A. Brewer III told Fox News Digital on Wednesday.
A total of 190 individuals and organizations have filed 22 amicus briefs, also known as “friend of the court” briefs, in support of the NRA’s legal battle against former New York Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo, who served under disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
The support stems from the NRA’s lawsuit arguing Vullo, at the behest of Cuomo, tried to blacklist the NRA due to personal political animosity towards the group. She sent “guidance letters” in 2018 to banks and insurance companies encouraging them to sever ties with the NRA and other pro-Second Amendment organizations, citing reputational risks. The guidance letters were issued shortly after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and staff.
The lawsuit alleges that Vullo made “backroom threats” to the financial institutions in order for them to cut ties, and thus silence the NRA and its Second Amendment speech.
The Supreme Court in November agreed to hear National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo, after a federal appeals court in 2022 dismissed the gun rights group’s lawsuit, arguing Vullo’s actions were reasonable.
Now, as the case sits before the Supreme Court, scholars and lawmakers have increasingly filed amicus briefs in support of the NRA, Fox News Digital has learned.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen was joined by 22 other state attorneys general in an amicus brief filed Tuesday, a move lauded by NRA-ILA Executive Director Randy Kozuch.
“The NRA applauds Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and the 22 other state attorneys general for their amicus brief to the Supreme Court in NRA v. Vullo, a critical First Amendment case, and an additional amicus brief filed by state AGs Rokita and Fitch from Indiana and Mississippi. Their involvement underscores the case’s importance in defending free speech,” Kozuch told Fox News Digital.
Knudsen and the 22 other state attorneys general argue in the amicus brief that if the Supreme Court allows the lower court’s decision to stand, ”government officials will likely employ similar tactics to stifle disfavored speakers” or “could simply target private facilities that host events for such groups.”
In comment to Fox News Digital, the Republican Montana AG said New York politicians opposed to the Second Amendment used “mafia-style tactics” to silence the NRA.
“In their quest to erase the Second Amendment, anti-gun politicians in New York violated the First Amendment rights of the National Rifle Association and its millions of members, using mafia-style tactics to try to silence their voices,” Knudsen said.
“This abuse of power is troublesome for any organization that engages in political speech, and the Supreme Court cannot let it stand,” he continued.
Vullo’s attorney, Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells, argued in comment provided to Fox News Digital that the NRA is asking the Supreme Court “empower virtually limitless claims against any government official” due to an “unworkable interpretation of the First Amendment.”
“This case carries significant implications for the future of American regulatory law. At its core, this case asks a simple question: ‘Should the government be allowed to govern?’ Incredibly, the NRA asks the Court to empower virtually limitless claims against any government official based on an extreme and unworkable interpretation of the First Amendment. Their position runs counter to a unanimous panel of the Second Circuit and decades of well-established Supreme Court precedent,” Katyal said.
Katyal, who served as acting solicitor general during the Obama administration, added that Vullo and “her team were proud of their work to hold these entities to account for their acknowledged violations of New York law” and look forward to presenting their case.
“As the Second Circuit unanimously held, former New York Department of Financial Services Superintendent Vullo did not engage in any coercive or otherwise improper behavior at any point during her Department’s regulation of insurers’ offering so-called ‘murder insurance,'” Katyal said.
The state AGs are far from the first group of U.S. leaders who have stood beside the NRA in support of its suit against Vullo.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed a separate amicus brief arguing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s ruling “should be reversed.” While James P. Corcoran – the former New York Superintendent of Insurance under Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo - filed his own brief in support of the NRA, as did The Goldwater Institute and Cato Institute last week.
“NRA also appreciates the efforts of Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), along with 81 U.S. Senators and Representatives, for their recent joint amicus brief, which shows a strong commitment to upholding constitutional freedoms,” Kozuch said.
Budd and Hudson were joined by 81 members of the U.S. Congress in yet another amicus brief filed Monday, which called on the Supreme Court to “reverse the decision” issued by the Second Circuit.
“The practical effect of the pressure campaign on the private entities was and is to hinder the NRA’s First Amendment-protected gun rights advocacy mission. By exploiting a weak link in the NRA’s operation, Vullo and DFS used state power to ‘induce, encourage or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish,’” that brief states.
Six First Amendment scholars on Wednesday filed yet another brief, which included backing from professors at the University of Chicago Law School, Stanford Law School, New York Law School and Princeton University.
“Permitting Vullo’s sanctions-backed threats in this case would provide the government the means to punish any speech with which it disagrees or views as politically unpopular. In one state, it may be the NRA. In another, it might be Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It could be Black Lives Matter or the National Right to Life Committee. The list of potential targets is endless. And as different as those targets may be, the First Amendment protects each of them from government compelled blacklisting based on their advocacy,” the scholars, including previous ACLU president Nadine Strossen, wrote in the brief.
Kozuch said that the support from lawmakers and state leaders has created a “united front against government overreach.”
“The participation of more than 100 federal lawmakers and attorneys general represents a united front against government overreach, emphasizing the need to protect the rights of all Americans. This case extends beyond the NRA; it’s about safeguarding the fundamental liberties that form the cornerstone of our democracy,” he said.
Fox News Digital’s Brianna Herlihy contributed to this report.